I’m not referring to a guy at the courtesy counter of a department store who refuses to allow you to return a holiday gift you purchased. “Christmas creep” – a phrase I learned just yesterday - refers to the phenomenon that here in the United States, Christmas starts before Halloween! According to surveys conducted by the National Retail Federation, 40% of consumers say they begin holiday shopping before Halloween.
As people of faith, we need to put Christmas in perspective and take a moment to reflect on what is happening here. You’ve heard the slogan: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” The Knights of Columbus each year conduct a “Keep Christ in Christmas” campaign. I can’t wait to put my “Keep Christ in Christmas” magnet on my car. Originally I was planning to put it on in mid-November. But after listening to the radio yesterday I think I should put it on right now!
My intention here is not to condemn eager, ambitious retailers competing in a free market economy or shoppers looking to get a head start in an extremely busy season of the year. Rather I just want to say that to celebrate Christmas in the way God designed it, we must take into account the Church liturgical calendar. The Catholic Church defines very clearly when Christmas begins and ends. The four week period of Advent begins this year on Sunday, November 29. Advent as you know is not a celebration of Christmas, but a spiritual preparation for Christmas. Everyone knows that you can’t have success in life without preparation. The Kansas City Royals, who just won the World Series, did not just start practicing a few days ago, run out onto the field and win the World Series. It took a very long time of practice and preparation. Similarly, an event such as allowing Jesus Christ to be born in us requires four weeks of prayer and meditation – time to focus and get ready.
Also, Christmas as you know in the Catholic Church is not just one day. Christmas Day is part of an eight day period known as an “Octave.” One of the Eucharistic prayers used during the Christmas octave continues to say “celebrating the most sacred day” referring to Christmas Day even on, say, day 6 of the Octave.
Then, the Christmas season continues until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which this year falls on Sunday, January 10, 2016. It is natural and more human to continue and prolong the celebration of something good. My uncle once told me that he always remembers that when growing up, in the days after Christmas, the family would travel around to different relatives’ houses; everyone showed one another what gifts they received. It is unnatural to celebrate a great moment quickly, rub your hands and then move onto something else.
As Christmas creep comes upon us, let’s be sure that it does not cut the season short! Christmas Day is the beginning of a season and not the end of one!