The Bishop or the Grinch? (an Advent blog)

December 1, 2006

Come December 25th—Is Christmas Over?

Suggestions for a Fuller Celebration


Is Bishop Henderson the Grinch?

Christmas is celebrated quite differently in some branches of the Church.  In the sect in which I was raised, the tree was decorated shortly after Thanksgiving and removed no later than New Year’s Day, lest bad luck ensue.  We also started singing Christmas carols around Thanksgiving (if not earlier), but never after December 25th—after all, Christmas was over! 

In Anglicanism and other branches of catholic Christianity, the four weeks prior to Christmas Day constitute the season we call Advent—a season not for celebration, but for spiritual preparation in order that celebration of our Lord’s birth may be richer and more meaningful.  During this time, Anglicans do not (ordinarily) have Christmas parties, wish each other “Merry Christmas” or sing Christmas carols and songs.  But that practice can leave us—and especially our children—feeling left out of things in a culture that begins its celebration early and shuts the party down abruptly.

Alas and alack, our tradition takes care of that!  After honoring the semi-solemnity of Advent, we celebrate all Twelve Days of Christmas, beginning with the Feast of the Incarnation (December 25) and concluding not until January 5th—the Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany.  Celebrating these twelve days not only honors the Incarnation more fully than a one-day observation, but can embed within us a more conscious and enduring sense of God’s love given to us through Jesus.  Your own imaginations will be more fruitful than mine, but here are a few suggestions:

1.      Set up the tree whenever you wish, but do not decorate until Christmas Eve.  (This is good witness to our friends, but also can build up the appropriate sense of Advent expectation among the youngsters.)  (Or—like the Jesse tree in the Chapel at Trinity Cathedral—have the youngsters make decorations based on Old Testament symbols, and add one each day that the tree is up prior to Christmas.)

2.      Hold back some gifts for the children, spreading them out over the Twelve Days.

3.      Deliver gifts to others during the Twelve Days.

4.      Decide upon a simple act of charity for the family to work on during the Twelve Days, or several acts of charity to be accomplished on pre-designated days, and ensure that everyone’s aware that these acts are Christmas-related.

5.      Hold your Christmas parties during the Twelve Days—the Feast of the Holy Name (New Year’s Day), which is the 8th Day of Christmas—is both timely and convenient!

6.      Attend worship—or worship as a family at home—more frequently during the Twelve Days.  At least two of the feast days of the period continue the Christmas story:  December 28 (The Holy Innocents), January 1 (Holy Name); others include the feast day of the first Christian martyr (Stephen, on December 26, and St. John Evangelist, December 28th.

7.      Organize and/or attend a Christmas/Epiphany pageant or a Carol sing.

8.      Or incorporate a favorite personal or family activity in a way that emphasizes the importance of the birth of the Savior.

…and may all Twelve Days be blessings for you (please note that I am not prematurely wishing you a M—y C——-s!).



3 Responses to “The Bishop or the Grinch? (an Advent blog)”

  1. Jamie Dent Says:

    Dear Bishop, Thank you for your timely reflection on the challenge of observing Advent in a holly-jolly world. One thing we did was go ahead and put the wreaths on our doors, decorated only with a purple ribbon. Always brought questions by visitors and gave us a chance to describe another way of preparing to friends who did not know about Advent.

  2. Pamela Monahan Says:

    We never really held back Christmas growing up, except with the nativity scene. As far as advent went I only remember it in the form of advet calendars– some years we’d each get our own and some memorable years my dad would buy one with chocolate pieces in it and every third day (I’m one of three sisters) I’d get one.
    But until we were teenagers, we always celebrated the 12 days of Christmas and it was the most wonderful thing. And actually, starting when I was seven or so we would open one– just one– present Christmas eve night which really built up anticipation. It had to be a small one. Then we had the normal outpouring of gifts on Christmas. Then on each of the 12 days we got something small– an ornament, a candy bar, a fancy pencil or pen. It was never anything big, but we got presents far longer than any of our friends. It is my favorite “Christmas tradition” of my childhood. And I plan on continuing it if the Lord blesses me with children of my own someday.

  3. family activities are very nice to have, it also strengthens the bond among family members .~.

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