Skip to comments.That incredible shrinking Advent-Christmas season (Christmas should start, not end, Dec. 25)
Posted on 12/05/2005 10:36:23 PM PST by churchillbuff
The estimable Father John Jay Hughes reports that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a feature article last December 26 on how to disassemble and store Christmas decorations. As Father Hughes commented: "In my childhood, thanks to my Anglican priest-father, we were never permitted to put up the tree or any Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve. And once up, they stayed there until at least the Octave of Epiphany" (which, I'd perhaps better note, would be January 13 --- if, that is, the bishops hadn't moved Epiphany from its proper date to a nearby Sunday, a folly surpassed only by the biblical absurdity of Ascension Thursday Sunday).
Fifteen years of intense involvement with Poles and Poland has given me an even more capacious view of the Christmas season. In Poland, the decorations stay up, the Christmas carols are sung, and the celebration of the Incarnation continues until February 2, the Feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas. That's the way it was in the papal apartment in Rome between 1978 and 2004. And that's the way it will be in Poland's intact Catholic culture this year.
Railing against secular America's calendrical translation of the "Christmas season" into a period between mid-October and 8 a.m. December 26 (or whenever the post-Christmas sales start at the malls) is of less importance, though, than trying to ensure that the Church's Advent and Christmas seasons are not temporally hijacked by the surrounding culture.
If memory serves, Advent got exceedingly short shrift last year, being essentially just three weeks long: which meant 25 percent less time to reflect on the two great themes of that wonderful time --- the Second Coming and the Incarnation. Worse yet, more and more Catholic churches seemed to be succumbing to the secular redefinition of the seasons by putting up Christmas decorations during the third or even second week of Advent. The truncation was just as bad at the far end, what with the transfer of Epiphany to Sunday, January 2.
We need more Advent and Christmas, not less --- but we need them at the proper time, which is the Church's time, not Macy's time or Wal-Mart's time. Taking Advent seriously would be a good beginning.
The widespread use of Advent wreaths in churches is a welcome development. Even more welcome would be pastors actively encouraging every Catholic family to have an Advent wreath in their home, to learn the rituals of lighting it, and to pray together at the nightly lighting of the wreath during one of the most spiritually rich seasons of the Church's year of grace.
Reconstituting the liturgical calendar would also help. The Solemnity of the Epiphany belongs on January 6, period. Restoring Epiphany to its proper place would do justice to a generally neglected feast; in a nifty countercultural move, it would also stretch the Christmas season back to its proper length.
And while we're on the Epiphany, why not stretch it out, too? Bringing back, say, three "Sundays After Epiphany" would give the Church a greater opportunity to pray over the mission-to-the-nations, one of the great themes embedded in the Lord's "epiphany." What's the rush to get to "Ordinary Time" (an ill-advised moniker if ever there was one)? Wouldn't it be spiritually beneficial to spend more time in that extraordinary time marked by Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany?
Let's be different. Let's let liturgical time define this unique time of the year.
Slacker. We keep ours up at least until February. :)
Since the twelve days of christmas don't even begin until after christmas eve, it's always surprising to me to see trees outside along the curb the week following christmas.
Tradition was that all vestiges of christmas were to be cleared by Candlemas, on feb 2nd. Many then took the mostly spent holiday candles and remelted them into new candles on candlemas.
Not everyone gets my sense of humour.
When a friend went into the Discalced Carmelite Monastery, it was then that I learned they celebrated Christmas all the way until the Presentation, so she could write to people during that time. (she can only write twice a year--Christmas Season and Easter Season).
It's gonna take a l o n g time to reverse the tide we're on as a society regarding Holy Days.
The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lords first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.
The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.
In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. The youngest child then lights one purple candle.
During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.
During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.
Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.
Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
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"Stay up"? Are they supposed to come down?
I agree that we should go back to having at least 12 days of Christmas. That would certainly trump Adam Sandler's "eight crazy nights"!
Thanks for the ping,Salvation.
I'll answer by repeating my post from the other thread:
I use the example of the gradually increasing light of the Advent wreath as the pattern for decorating at home and Church.
At home, the decorations begin with creches at the beginning of Advent (minus the Christ Child, who does not appear until December 24 mid day) and these will remain up through Candlemass. Outdoor lights are added in groupings each Advent Saturday. Right now blue bulbs predominate; and I actually have a grouping of four wild cedar trees that will serve as a living Advent wreath.
At home and Church alike Gaudete Sunday is the turning point...that is when the trees appear. Church poinsettias do not arrive until Advent 4. The church nave has deep window sills so the only creche figures at the stable (also placed on Gaudete) are animals and a shepherd. Mary and Joseph are on a front window ledge. The Magi and their camels are much farther back, and will move forward with each successive Sunday or Festival. The church creche also stays up through Candlemass.
Returning back home, Christmas Eve is the big outdoor transformation when many of the blue lights are suddenly supplemented with clear; a wire sculpture creche is lighted, plus a whole lot of clear lighted wild trees. And these remain lighted through all of the twelve days! Lights remain "up" through January 5.
Merry Christmas to all!
I've always had an advent wreath but did not know an english prayer....thank you for posting.
that's an absolutely beautiful adaptation of the tradition using modern lights. Thank you for sharing.
We celebrate through Epiphany, too, and have an Epiphany Party to wrap things up. People are still wanting to celebrate and we all finally have the time available. We have to put a flyer in with our invitations, tho — a definition of Epiphany, for the non-liturgical and non-churched.
In Vienna, they start the Waltz Season December 26 and go til - what? Epiphany? Lent? In Merrye England, they celebrated the Twelve Days After. The Puritans left some of the good stuff behind, but it is ours for the taking.
We always keep our tree and decorations and creche up till Epiphany, too.
That’s when the Wise Men came. Some countries pass out their gifts on that day to commemorate the gifts the Magi brought the infant Jesus.
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