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November 18, 2009

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This is such a great question. I love your flash of insight that trying to get it done ahead of time to avoid a crunch starting Dec. 18. Starting around August I always have a vaguely nagging feeling that I really ought to start buying presents and making plans – now I will have justification for squashing that feeling right down.

My inner 3rd grader (not so inner, really) doesn't hold with Christmas decorations or fuss until December 1, but graciously accepts the idea of businesses decorating the day after Thanksgiving. My 6 year old is surprisingly with me on this and in the car today was shouting and waving her arms around in an 'ack! My eyes!' gesture when she saw the tinsel snowflakes and wreaths hanging off the telephone poles in our town. The *Christmas* parade here is Nov. 21, which is just Wrong!

Despite my nagging guilt starting in August I end up in the Leave it all til December school by virtue of my innate disorganization. Thanks for the rationale for it!

I'm sort of torn on this one. I used to be in the "they start marketing Christmas waaay to early, Oh my ears the Christmas music!" camp, but since I've had kids and married a husband that is crazy about Christmas, I find myself getting into the spirit much earlier.

However, just to be clear, I think one should at least wait until the day after Thanksgiving out of respect for that holiday.

When I was growing up, my parents always waited until the last minute to put up the tree because "Advent isn't a time of celebration", but I personally don't hold to that tradition. In our house, we focus more on the fact that Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas... so the decorations come out much earlier. :)

Great question. I have always tried to avoid Christmas creep, because I'm a seasonal kind of person: I like the church year, I like transitions, etc. I like Advent to be Advent; I like the bleak midwinter to be the bleak midwinter. (Now, I'll confess that in my family, we've always sort of treated Thanksgiving weekend as the unofficial beginning: we break out the Christmas music and the holiday dishes; the sisters would come home from college and put up the parental tree, etc. -- so I was a little early, but still fairly close to December/Advent.)

Well. As irritated as I am in principle that two radio stations around here have ALREADY started playing Christmas tunes (and I don't listen to them)...I find myself wanting to both fight the creep (keep the seasons separate, and sacred)...while also wanting to get started. Why? Because it's such a mad rush. If I don't start now, I feel like I'll be so rushed that I won't get to that quiet stillness of Advent in time to also feel the bright joy of Christmas. "My soul in stillness waits," but only if it's not running around like a crazy woman. I can't bring myself to actually dig in (it's not Advent yet!), but I also feel like I need more than a scant four weeks. So...I'm creeping, more than I thought I ever would. I'm actually embarrassed at myself: I feel like I've somehow sold out. But I also feel like I'm trying to protect and grow my spirit.

To quote one of my favorite Christmas institutions:

I don't know, Linus. I just don't know.

I'm not even religious and I think Christmas starts too early! Here in Canada the Christmas decorations come out the day after Halloween -- there's no other big holiday in between so all the stores go nuts. It drives me crazy and I refuse to break out the Christmas stuff or buy Christmasy things until the day after American Thanksgiving.

As for needing an early start I've remedied that, though most people can't or wouldn't want to do what I do and I don't blame them. I don't send Christmas cards (I'd love to, but it has never happened). My family only gives presents when we find something we really, really want to give so I don't have much shopping (I am so, so thankful we're all on the same page regarding gifts). I feel bad, but some gifts arrive at their destinations late (like, um, in July a couple of times...we want to keep that Christmas spirit all year, right?) My apartment is only 850 square feet so there are only so many decorations that fit. We do do stuff to celebrate and it does take work, but I really enjoy the things that we do and so that makes it less stressful.

It's extremely annoying! We've gotten so wrapped up in the glitz, the gifts, and the tinsel that we've forgotten what Christmas is truly about.

As I've gotten older, time flies by faster and faster, and Christmas creep bothers me less and less because I realize that it's going to be over with sooner than you know....so why agonize over it? When I'm in Costco and see those giant inflatable Xmas things hovering over the back-to-school supplies, that's a little over the top, but I think to myself, "Oh, it makes SENSE to start selling them now so budget-minded people might have a chance to save for a few months to buy one, or for a business to order one now to get it in this budget cycle, or whatever...." even though I don't get out any decorations until after THanksgiving (except for the one year that I was expecting a baby on Dec 3, and knew I wasn't going to feel like doing any preps in December--so that year I did put up the tree right after Halloween!).

I recently did some reading about Advent. I learned that the earliest observance of Advent was established by the Council of Tours (in France?) in 567, and included 3 days of fasting per week from Nov 11 until Xmas....then in around the 590s, the celebration of Advent began in Rome, where the observance took less of a penitential tone and more of a celebratory tone, a time of joyful preparation. Eventually the two tones were mixed such that Advent is a season of penance AND a season of joy. So, while I appreciate the significance of letting the bleak midwinter be bleak midwinter, and think that penitential prayer and reflection is an impt part of our Advent observance, I think that the "joyful preparation" part means it's also ok to be getting ready and decorating and listening to Xmas carols while you do it. (That said, I also feel that Xmas carols at church should be reserved until the 24th, except for O Come O Come Emmanuel which is, of course, an advent carol!)

I went to Lowe's in mid-October, and they had huge bins of pumpkins for $2 each, but in this warm climate it seemed unwise to buy a pumpkin that early. So I stopped back in a few days before Halloween, and all traces of Halloween were GONE. No pumpkins, no light-up cackling witches, just aisle after aisle of Christmas trees and LED reindeer. I was distressed. Christmas should not come before Halloween, or even before Thanksgiving.

In our little family, which blends Roman Catholic with Ukrainian Catholic and Russian Orthodox traditions, we celebrate Christmas from December 24 until Epiphany. My husband therefore does not want any decorations to go up until December 20 or so, since they'll stay up well into January. And I'm unwise to buy Christmas gifts too early... for the second year in a row, I've been informed in late November that we won't be exchanging gifts with my husband's side of the family. So the gifts I was so efficient to buy early last year are still under my bed! (They're all identical, so I can't give them out one by one for birthdays.)

The best way to prepare early for Christmas is to stock up on cards and decorations and wrapping paper and such in the sales AFTER Christmas. That way you'll be able to write your cards at your leisure, you'll save money, and you won't be contributing to the Creep... especially since we know those "after Christmas sales" are truly happening during the liturgical Christmas season.

I tell my kids that people get excited so they throw on the lights early, but that we like to take seasons in turn and wait until after Thanksgiving. To each their own, I guess, though I admit it bothers me when the stores unroll the glitter so early. Seems money grubbing to me, but what are stores for anyway?

I buy non-Christmas specific items (like gifts, or some foods) early, like October. I've found that if I go TOO early, like August, I often miss the best gift ideas. For example, if I would have gotten my mom a gift in August, I would have missed her need and desire for yoga pants. If I purchase something for one of the kids too early, I might miss a current interest.

Things like Christmas cards are best to wait til November for so we can get current pictures of the kids. Or I buy cards on an After-Christmas sale and just put plain photos in the cards.

As for the stamps, since I can order stamps from USPS online, I seldom worry about buying these ahead.

All in all, by the time December rolls around, there is very little I need to buy, but I guess I don't buy that much in the way of seasonal impedimenta that doesn't wait for an after-season sale.

Ok...Off topic, but my Ben was taking a CCD test and, from reading your blog, thought you may know the answer to this question.

So I promised him I'd ask you -

Q: Why is it more appropriate to say the Nicene Creed at Mass rather than the Apostles Creed?

I didn't have an answer, and when I did research - became more confused -

Well, I just bought a big box of bows and four giant glass ornaments at Target yesterday, so count me among the creepers. Sigh.

If I don't do some of the secular prep work early (buying gifts and wrapping paper, buying tickets for the Santa train, starting to think about cookie plans), and if I don't think a little about Christmas rituals at the beginning of November, then it is very easy for me not to have enough time for the sacred preparation during Advent. Although "sacred preparation" covers a lot of fun things with the kids, of course. Baking, wrapping, and gifting cookies -- extremely spiritual by my lights.

Part of me wishes very much that I lived in a culture where the Christmas tree went up on December 24th and came down on January 6th. Where Advent was about four lights, not a gazillion of them, and we built to the solstice and to Christmas. But part of me loves that we watch a different set of very secular Christmas DVDs each week in December. Part of me is very, very excited to be plotting this year's decorations right now. (I have tended to bring them out in fits and starts, which is probably more in keeping with the spirit of the season, but feels less satisfying. This year, I want to have a couple of days and get everything but the tree -- we do wait on the tree until the second weekend in December -- all UP at once. Big SPLASH.)

It occurs to me that modern life has been good to me in some particulars. I haven't been to the Mall since early October. I don't have to drag the kids to Target, so I know the stupid decorations are all up (and luring me into buying things) but they don't. We don't listen to commercial radio, so until reading these comments, I had forgotten about those two channels on the dial who are already playing the music.

I'm totally rambling. I am trying to reconcile my fundamental agreement with your point, with my awareness that it will all be over again in the blink of an eye. And I love the season.

(My specific "early Christmas" rant? Because our congregation comprises a high percentage of academic families, many of whom travel at Thanksgiving and Christmas -- not having settled close to their extended families -- EVERYTHING around here gets pushed up. We're having our Advent fair on November 22nd. We're having our Christmas pageant on December 13th. It is just so disappointing! But the alternative is not to have those activities for the majority of the congregation. Sigh.)

I tend to agree with Jody above me. I have found in my 15 years of running my own household that if I don't slowly prepare, I'm overwhelmed and that doesn't contribute to a peaceful state of mind in December. And there are certain traditions that I don't want to sacrifice, and doing a little at a time over more time is the best way for me to balance both for our family.

What I have found to relieve some of the pressure--and recognize, as a family, the actual dates of the Christmas season--is to do some traditional Christmas activities in the time between Christmas and Epiphany.

For example, one of our family traditions is to drive around the neighborhood to look at the lights. Last year, it just wasn't happening before Christmas, so I had an "aha" moment and we did it afterwards. Ditto to gingerbread houses, which I believe we did around the Feast of the Holy Family (I didn't work too hard at connecting the two for the kids, but it made sense to me!)

The Nicene creed starts with "we believe", it is a community statement of faith. The Apostle's creed starts with "I believe" and is an individual statement of faith.

The creed beginnings are actually artifacts of the translation--the We Believe is changed to I Believe in the Nicene as well once the new translations go into effect (I think--was in the last draft I read online).

As for looking at lights in Christmas octave, I salute you for that Katie, but we've tried before and all the people who take them down on Dec 26th (or at least turn them off) kind of ruin the effect. I'd like to have a party in the 12 Days--that seems like something I can do. I like the idea of gingerbread houses.

Sorry, just have to jump in here to clarify. I'm too geeky to let linguistic confusion stand.

The Nicene creed actually starts with "I believe" in Latin: Credo, from which we get the word "creed".

"WE believe" is a bad English mis-translation that is being corrected in the new Mass translations back to what it originally was.

Not sure what the CCD teacher is looking for as to why the Nicene creed is most appropriate. Just that historically it's the one that has always been said at Mass and that it's the creed used by both east and west so it's what unites us with non Latin-rite Catholics and with the Orthodox churches.

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