Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This Holy Tide of Christmas

Merry Christmas!

We're in the Octave of Christmas--the day itself and the seven days that follow--which, like Easter, the Church celebrates as one great feast.  The joy of these holy days overflows into the entire week afterward.  So I'm still wishing people "Merry Christmas."

I went into a Target yesterday, three days after Christmas, to see if I could find any Christmas candy on sale.  All the remaining Christmas items were shoved into the back corner of the store, piled into carts and arranged on mostly empty shelves.  And on the way there, I passed a Valentine's Day display.

Now I don't really expect commercial enterprises to follow the Church's liturgical calendar.  They've been pushing "holiday shopping" for the last two months in order to boost their bottom lines.  Now they've got to move on to the Next Thing to Prepare For in order to make another buck.

Unfortunately, most Christians follow suit.  They celebrate the Christmas season prior to Christmas.  Parties are never scheduled after the holiday.  Christmas trees, which have been up and decorated since Thanksgiving, are thrown out immediately.  And where are the Christmas carols on December 26th?  So, come Christmas afternoon, after the presents have been opened and dinner served, things never quite seem to be all that merry.  No wonder the joy people expect to have seems rather empty and anticlimactic by that point; it's been exhausted long before.

Our job as lay Catholics is to convert the culture to Christ.  Instead, we've been converted by it.  We shouldn't start celebrating holidays until they happen, and we should celebrate the liturgical seasons when they actually occur.

That's why I didn't put up decorations in my apartment until just before Christmas and why they are staying up until February 2, the Presentation of the Lord, which marked the end of the Christmas season in the old liturgical calendar.  In some places--including my house--that tradition remains even today.  That's why I waited until the Christmas season to wish people a merry Christmas.

But then I'm pretty comfortable being counter-cultural.