by William J. Bechaver
HUERFANO- In the red corner, we have Christmas, the long-time, and highly touted champion of The Holiday Season. Still, after all these years, it finds that is must strive to find appreciation for its meaning and respect for its full duration.
In the green corner, we have Advent, the all-but-forgotten predecessor of Christmas, forever struggling for an identity of its own and the recognition it has so long deserved.
And that’s about as far as I can carry the combative metaphor when referring to the two seasons of the year that most represent ‘peace on earth’ and ‘goodwill toward men’.
But first, let us consider Advent — the season it was intended to be and the season it has become.
Advent was meant to be a solemn and peaceful season — a season of anticipation. It is the season during which we are supposed to prepare for the more jubilant season of Christmas.
Advent can last anywhere from between 22 and 28 days, and is made to encompass the weeks leading up to Christmas. Yet, in the stressful and time-restricted atmosphere of the modern world, it has become anything but solemn. What, with the having to run around finding gifts for everybody and their brother, and having to get the lights on the house, and the food for the dinner bought, not to mention the tree, and all the rest of the decorations up. And don’t forget to mail all those Christmas cards to everyone you’ve ever met. It’s enough to drive anyone to the brink.
But wait a minute, isn’t this the solemn season of Advent. Then, taking that into consideration, wouldn’t that make them Advent cards? And what about ‘peace on earth’. Well, with everything being so hectic during these weeks and days leading up to Christmas, peace will just have to wait.
And then, finally, it is here. Christmas. All the preparations have been made. What ever gifts haven’t been bought will have to be substituted with cash, whatever decorations are still in the box will have to wait until next year. No time for that now. Christmas is here!
Now let us take a moment to consider Christmas. I guess the biggest misconception about Christmas would have to be the idea of Christmas Day. Christmas isn’t only one day. Have you ever heard of ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’? Well, I wonder where that came from? Actually, Christmas is not only a single day. It is a season, much the same as Advent. In Christian tradition, it is celebrated for a full twelve days, from December 25th right up to The Feast Of The Epiphany on January 6th.
Actually, in some international Christian cultures, gifts aren’t even exchanged until The Epiphany. That is the day, tradition has it, that The Three Wise Men visited The Holy Family, and presented them with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, hence the origin of the tradition of giving gifts. But let’s not bring a third holiday into this fracas.
So, prepare now. Put up the Christmas tree and the lights, and turn them on! It’s not too early, surly. But let us not forget that Christmas day is the first day of Christmas, not the last. You went to all the trouble to decorate, now take some time to enjoy all of your labor. Leave those Christmas lights up and burning throughout the entire Christmas Season. I know in our family, we burn our lights through Epiphany. I know a lot of people who do. But most have already taken theirs down by New Year’s Day. Sometimes, their trees are already thrown out earlier than that. We’re only half-way through Christmas, and the tree is already discarded! And I start to get the feeling that people think we’re strange for still having our lights up. Why is it now perceived to be acceptable to have your Christmas lights up at Thanksgiving, and yet not advisable to keep them lit for Christmas? Time goes by too quickly as it is. Why would we want to rush it along at a greater pace?
Well, Advent is nearly over, and Christmas is upon us. As I am fond of quoting some unknown wise-man — or is it wise-guy — "Warning! Dates on calendar are closer than they appear!"
Why is it we spend a lot of time preparing, and once it’s here, we spend very little time celebrating. Is it that we exhaust all our efforts during the time leading up to the holiday, that by the time it arrives, we have already tired of it? I’d like to think not. In a time so geared toward the commercialization of one of the holiest times of the year, I’d like to think we could, when it’s here, take the time to afford it the peace, respect, and reverence it so richly deserves.
I’m not saying we should all change our ways and write our cards after December 25th, and save the gifts for Epiphany. That would be going against years of convention, as well as tradition. I’m simply saying we need to take the time to find peace in our lives, when that is what we so desperately need. That is the meaning and purpose of Advent and Christmas.
Let us root for Advent, that it may be given the recognition it deserves. In reality, Advent may be the best kept, though most ill-recognized holiday we have. We use it properly to prepare for the holidays. I don’t think our Christian forefathers intended it to be such a stressful season of hustle and bustle that it has become. But still, the modern world is what it is.
Also, let’s pull for Christmas, that we may not forget it just as it has begun. In the end, it is Christmas that is the most short-changed in the deal. For just as it has begun, it is over. We spend days, even weeks, preparing for it, and then, when the sun is hardly set on that glorious day, we get ready to move on, leaving Christmas behind. Let us celebrate Christmas for the full dozen days it deserves. And, more! Let us learn from this the valuable lesson that the venerable Mister Scrooge learned all those years before us. Let us honour Christmas in our hearts and keep it all the year.
No, it’s not too late. So let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas, everyone!