Is Christmas over at your house? Are you already done putting away all the seasonal decor, or are you itching to? Going by the blogs I've been reading, most people are. I am saddened by people saying "I can't wait to get the house back to normal" and "I'm so sick of that tree!"
But it is still Christmas for many of us.
If you celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday, not a religious one, of course it's over. Santa's come and gone, the presents have been given, the parties are past. Time to move on. That makes sense, and I'm not complaining about you. It's the Christians who are so anxious for Christmas to be over who are making me want to cry.
For those celebrating Christ's birth, the party should be just beginning.
Of course Christmas is not a biblical holiday. We are not commanded to celebrate it. But traditionally, Christmas begins on December 25. That is the first day! It ends on January 6, the day traditionally celebrated as the day the Magi presented their gifts to the Christ child.
Advent is what ended on December 25. Advent is the time of preparation, of contemplation and readying ourselves for the celebration. In many homes, traditionally, the tree was not even put up till December 24, Christmas Eve. The children were surprised by it on Christmas morning.
Now, the tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, or even before, and by Christmas it's all falling needles and in the way. So it's out on the curb, or back in the attic, first thing on December 26.
Why is there such a long buildup to Christmas, and then it's over in a blink? Thanks to a facebook friend, I had my revelation about this last night.
The retail calendar is dictating the Christmas season now.. The retail calendar says we have to start buying stuff for Christmas as early as possible. I think I started seeing serious Christmas stuff in stores in October this year. People are frantic to get their houses decorated. I heard someone say, "We're late getting our tree up!" on December 1. That's not late.
But then, once Christmas Day comes, there's nothing left to buy. The gifts have been given, the decorations are up, the cards have been sent (well, most of them). The stores have to clear out the old stuff and bring in the new. Target, I'm told, is full of Valentine's Day products, the next retail holiday.
We don't always keep our tree up till January 6, but we keep the other decorations up till then. (This year the tree is going out today because of allergies.) I understand the need to get a tree out of the house and out of the way, the need for some return to normal routine. We are still enjoying some free time (not as much, as people do have to go back to work), still making cookies, still having company over for some Christmas cheer. Still singing Christmas songs. We aren't in fully holiday mode, but it's not completely over for us yet.
Retail Christmas is over. It's time to start buying for Valentine's Day.
Real Christmas is not over yet. Keep it going. Just a little longer. And next year, think about maybe not starting so early. Hold off a bit. Then you might not be in such a hurry to get it all out.
Merry Christmas. Today is just the third day!