Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Journal: Season's Greetings

The other day I heard a woman say that she decorates her house for Christmas on the Friday after Thanksgiving and then takes everything down on December 26th. While I think people should observe the season as best they see fit, I have to say this approach to the holidays strikes me as supremely wrong-headed.

I know, I know. If you've had a tree up since late November, it's a definite fire hazard by the day after and you need to get it down. I get that part.

And I also know that a lot of folks celebrating Christmas are not religious, and so they're free to say "Game over" whenever they want. I get that, too.

Still, the idea of Christmas skidding to a halt at midnight December 25th is depressing. To me, Christmas really, truly begins on Christmas Eve. Before then, you might have some Christmas moments--feelings of good will when someone lets you cut into traffic, small moments of peace, especially when you hear Nat King Cole sing "O Holy Night" while you're making Christmas cookies--but not that deep, holy feeling of Christmas.

Do you know the feeling I mean? I was not a particularly religious child, but I remember getting that holy feeling as my brothers and I delivered loaves of banana bread for my mother late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. The sky would be that glorious pink sinking into purple as we set out, and you could see the neighbors' trees in their windows. My brothers and I would sing Christmas carols and wonder outloud how we'd ever fall asleep that night. It would be dark by the time we got home. We'd turn out all the lights in the living room and sit in front of the tree until dinner, everything hushed and magical.

I don't think you have to have religious faith to get that holy feeling. I think it's there for everyone, free of charge, a gift from God. We may have given up on church, call ourselves "spiritual but not religious," call ourselves nothing at all, but we still seek out those moments where our souls feel at peace.

In my family, we begin decorating two weeks before Christmas, but the true desire to decorate doesn't hit me until the 22nd or 23rd. Yesterday I hung tinsel in living room. It felt like I was getting ready for a party. Which, I suppose, I was. The party will really begin Christmas Eve and will go on for days after Christmas, as we feast and celebrate, sing and play.

I will think of that woman in her naked living room, her life gone back to normal, her party already over.


Yesterday, I started thinking about the books I got for Christmas as a child. Little Women, A Little Princess, Mandy by Julie Andrews, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I think my father--it would have been my father who bought the books--went to the bookstore and said, "What are the best books for a girl to read?"

I still get lots of books for Christmas, and the days after Christmas are a reading fest for me. The food is cooked, the house is cleaned, I'm not doing laundry. I'll take breaks to play games with the boys and to grab some more Chex mix, but mostly what I'll do is read, read, read.



I expect this will be my last post before Christmas. I hope your Christmas is lovely, filled with light, joyous, holy, healing, and, of course, merry. Rejoice!


GretchenJoanna said...

Thank you, Frances! I will be thinking of you after Christmas -- or shall we say, during the 12 Days of Christmas? -- as I too rest and enjoy (hmm..wonder if I will get any books...). I am usually a little out of sync with my family nowadays, since my church feast really does not start until The Day, but I am trying to retrain them to see things as you explain them to be....this year I can't seem to get any baking done early anyway, so they will have to wait for that part at least!

Tracy said...

Happy Christmas Frances, to you and your wonderful family.

Christmas, here, coincides with summer holidays. For us that means camping holidays near the coast. Well, nearer than we currently are. A five minute drive rather than just over an hour. So our season of rest lasts quite some time...just not with a decorated tree in our caravan!

And I plan to take a mountain of books with me, because a girl can read nearly a book a day when there's nothing else to do but feed the family between visits to the beach.

Pom Pom said...

You are so right. There is no need to pack it up and put it away. It SHOULD last longer. It's so happy.
I hate it when all life's sweet pleasures get on the "to do" list. That's just plain silly.
I accidentally opened one of my book boxes today. I had fun looking at them and now, since I've seen them, I'll wrap them! So excited to sit and read for hours and hours and hours. I might treat myself to a few quick downloads on my Kindle, too. Fun!
Have a wonderful long stretch of festive holiness, Frances.

debbie bailey said...

This business of Christmas stuff out in the stores BEFORE Halloween this year is ridiculous! I like the idea of putting the tree up a few days before Christmas and leaving it up until the New Year. Usually by the time Christmas DOES get here, I'm sick of it. Not this year. I've done very little in the way of cooking or decorating so I'm ready for some celebrating and reflecting on Jesus, his coming, and what that means for us now. Good post, Frances, and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year's.

Angela said...

Happy Christmas to you and yours, Frances

Not having Thanksgiving, I tend to start putting up the Christmassy stuff as Advent begins, adding bits here and there throughut the month
And this will probably seem silly - but I would LOVE to have Chex [cant get them in the UK] - altho you can keep Hersheys kisses and Twinkies - tried them and didnt like 'em.

Do you have Twiglets in the US? they are an important Christmas party snack here, little twig-like breadsticks with Marmite coating.

Must go and peel the Brussels Sprouts now before the Xmas Eve Midnight Carol service!

Love and blessings xx

Sara Padrusch said...

So lovely, Frances.

I must confess however, that today I am putting away most of Christmas- everything except for the sister tree. I want to have a clean and tidied home for a fresh start on New Years.

Merry Christmas, dear friend!


Gumbo Lily said...

I know what you mean. I really do not do much Christmas decorating until sometime in December. If it were up to me, I'd not even put up a tree until Christmas Eve, but my family likes it up a bit earlier than that.

I like to leave much of my holiday decor up -- greens and candles -- through January. I think it's a good "winter look" and candles always remind me of The Light Who Shines in the Darkness" long after the tree is down and the wrapping paper is finally picked up.

My "holy" time during Christmas usually comes when we go to church on Christmas Eve and the congregation sings Silent Night at the very end. Usually tears are streaming down my face then.

A merry Christmas season to you!


magsmcc said...

I'm reading Gretchen Joanna's comment and have just read her post about the twelve days- our suns are very excitedly singing that for us every day now, REPEATEDLY, as they add another day! You're so right, as always! I love the theme in Christmas Carol of Christmas being a spirit that we carry all year long. But especially in these quiet dark days at the end of a year, when thought prevails.