Recently we got the film The Nightmare Before Christmas from the library to watch. None of us really liked the movie much, but it was an interesting juxtaposition of the fear-mongering of Halloween trying to get in on the joy of Christmas. I read that it was inspired from seeing Christmas displays in stores immediately after Halloween.
I've had a few friends and acquaintances mention getting up Christmas decorations around their homes already. Forgive me friends, I mean no offense, but don't rush the holidays.
Getting ready for the holidays isn't about "getting in the spirit" or enjoying the mood that comes with them. Each holiday has it's own meaning, which we often loose in the commercialism of them. And, yes, holidays have changed over time. Most holidays we celebrate today were rooted in pagan festivals. Christians redeemed many pagan holidays to mark the rhythms and celebrations of the Bible.
Halloween, unfortunately, overshadows All Saint's Day--a day to remember our loved ones and other saints who have passed away. We miss the blessing of grieving and remembering when we focus on the fear, the costumes, and the candy.
Thanksgiving becomes overshadowed by Black Friday. We moved rapidly from giving thanks for what God has given to trying to get as much more as we can on sale. Thanksgiving itself often becomes "Turkey Day" with added focus on football.
The word "holiday" is a contraction of sorts of "holy" and "day." Holy, meaning separate, set apart. They were meant to be meaningful and different. I encourage you to savor each day (not just of the holidays, but of each and every day).
Christmas doesn't start until December 25th on the church calendar (unless you're from one of the groups who use the Julian calendar and celebrate it on January 6 or 7 or even the 19th). Those twelve days of Christmas we sing about? Those stretch from December 25 until January 6.
The rest of December is pretty much under Advent. Advent is about waiting. We wait for Christmas just as the world waited for the Christ to come and save. Practicing four weeks of waiting is good for us--good for the soul. So is practicing Thanks-giving (a focused day of giving thanks to remind us to be thankful each day for what we have).
We don't put up our Christmas decorations until St. Nicholas Day usually (though sometimes it happens on Santa Lucia Day). We do this intentionally. I know of some families who don't do anything until right before Christmas Day.
I'm not trying to tell you when to put up your decorations, or when not to. But I am encouraging you to not rush the holidays--to take the time for each one and to mark it in meaningful and special ways.
Right now for me (and my family) is a time of giving thanks. Thanks for our veterans. Thanks for our democracy. Thanks for all I have been given.
And then, in gratitude, I will wait. I will wait for Christmas to arrive. I will wait because instant gratification helps no one grow or savor the moment or appreciate the arrival of what has been given. I will wait because my body and my soul needs time to slow down and be present.
To everything there is a season.