Monday, November 24, 2008

Keeping Christmas Special

I used to enjoy the Christmas season much more than I now do. However, I still enjoy Christmastime. I am all for celebrating Christmas per my desires and allowing others to follow their own proclivities. But I cannot bring myself to adopt some of the Christmas activities that are becoming more popular.

Although there are homes in the area that have been enthusiastically displaying their holiday decorations since the day after Halloween, I have explained to my kids that I refuse to budge from our longstanding policy of decorating the first weekend in December and then cleaning up our decorations between Christmas and New Years (usually on a weekend).

While I find exterior lighting quite festive, we have never put up outdoor holiday lighting. I’m just not willing to do the work involved. I think our decorations are significantly elaborate, but they are simple compared to some. It does require at least half a day of work to put everything up and then again to take everything down.

We have two artificial Christmas trees. (Although Jim Gaffigan’s take on Christmas decorating does raise some interesting questions about this practice. I promise that you’ll laugh.) Our living room is not very big, but it has high ceilings. So years ago we obtained a tall narrow tree. It looks grand. But we discovered early on that the narrow living room is a lousy place to open gifts. So we have a little (much less grand) tree in our family room for that purpose.

We decorate the two trees, put out a variety of Christmas knickknacks that have come our way over the years, put up our Nativity set in the curio cabinet, and are done decorating. I don’t like to have the decorations up so long that they can gather much dust.

My wife and I have a tradition that we began when we were engaged. Each year we find an ornament that has a heart somewhere on it as a symbol of our continuing love for one another. We label the ornament with the year and put it up on the tree. We store these ornaments carefully at the end of the season. Our children note the importance of this tradition.

One of the reasons I enjoy Christmas less than I once did is that the season begins earlier and earlier. Some stores have holiday decorations and displays long before Halloween nowadays. I love Christmas music. But I don’t particularly care to listen to it in November, let alone October.

It is as if the Christmas season has changed from being a unique week to lasting a quarter of the year. The extension of the celebration makes the season increasingly common, robbing it of its specialness. We go to greater and greater lengths to decorate, hold more and more special events, and spend increasing sums on increasingly grand gifts to try to recapture the significance that we inadvertently diminish through these precise actions.

I’m not muttering humbug under my breath about Christmas. While I appreciate the complaints of many Christians about Christ being diminished by Santa, I really see no reason why a family can’t have fun with Santa while also appropriately celebrating and worshipping Christ. I don’t see it as an either-or proposition. But I think that’s up to each family to figure out on its own.

Speaking of Santa, we have never misled our children about Santa. While we have fun with the tradition, we have always answered our kids honestly and forthrightly whenever they have asked about it. I do not intentionally lie to my kids.

Having lived in Norway, I find some interesting differences between our Christmas celebrations and theirs. We start celebrating Christmas weeks (months) prior to the event. Then once New Years passes, it’s immediately over and done. Norwegians don’t really get into Christmas until just before the event. All of their church, school, work, and other social Christmas gatherings occur in the few weeks following Christmas.  The season gradually fades out. There seems to be less stress this way.

I enjoy the Christmas season, but I prefer to celebrate it in a way that makes it special. And for me that means keeping it relatively brief.


Anonymous said...

I love Christmas and don't care for Halloween so you would expect me to enjoy those places where Christmas begins sometime in October. I don't.

I am all in favor of Christmas starting the day after Thanksgiving and lasting until January 2nd (leaving the lights up until then, though not usually the tree). This allows Thanksgiving to take a proper place marking the beginning of the holidays and lets New Years conclude the season.

Rob said...

Thanks for sharing your Christmas traditions and thoughts. You too David.

However you celebrate Christmas it is my wish and prayer that you find peace and happiness this Christmas season and throughout the new year.

With every best wish,

Rob Miller
The Utah Amicus

Scott Hinrichs said...

Thank you, Rob. And may you and yours be blessed as well.