Can I tell you something? This used to be my favorite time of year. Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, I looked forward to this time of year all year long. But now I kind of dread it. And not because I’m a mom and I have more to do this time of year. It’s because there seems to be so much pressure these days, especially on Catholic moms, to “get it right.” To do Advent right and Christmas right. The questions and blog posts have already started.
Do you do Santa?
When do you set up the tree?
Are you successful at keeping Advent sacred and unsullied by Christmas revelry until midnight of Christmas Eve?
Maybe it’s just my easy-going personality, but I think my McFamily did things pretty well. We were always very aware of and into the Advent season. We had our Advent wreath and usually a paper Advent calendar and we could take turns opening the door for the day. Later in my childhood my mom found this Advent read-aloud called Jotham’s Journey that we all really enjoyed. But, we also got our Christmas tree usually half way through the month and we decorated it right away, while listening to Christmas music. We believed in Santa Clause, but we would also get a present from Baby Jesus on Christmas morning. Some years we went to the Christmas Eve Mass and but later on we mostly went to Mass on Christmas morning, some years before opening presents if I remember correctly! My point is, I think my parents did a good job of teaching us about the true meaning of Christmas. We knew Advent was a season of preparation, but we also were excited about Christmas coming and enjoyed the magic of the decorations, the music, the special movies and treats.
I understand the intent behind this “keep Advent sacred” movement. We live in a world where the Halloween candy appears at stores in July and Santa shows up in September. I get it, we all need to reel it in and recognize that Christmas is on December 25th and the season of Advent comes before so that we can prayerfully prepare our hearts and our homes. But, maybe it’s because I’m not much a disciplined, austere person myself that I don’t see the harm in a decorated tree on December 12th and Christmas songs playing while making dinner in December. As an adult, and especially since becoming a Mom, the darkness descending outside at 4:30pm makes the rest of life feel dark, but that month-6 weeks that we have the tree up and the other seasonal comforts really helps everyone’s moods. Furthermore, it helps me keep my focus on Christ and embrace and share the joy of the season.
I’m not trying to poo-poo anyone who works really hard at not mixing Advent and Christmas, I’m just saying I don’t think it ruins Advent when we slowly add in merriment as we build towards the Christmas feast.
We’re all journeying to the same place, but we all have different paths. I might change my mind, or gradually become more strict about Advent and Christmas. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will move my husband and me to try new things as we build our family traditions and strive to grow in holiness. It’s happened before! I just don’t like this idea that if you do certain things at Christmastime, participate in certain more secular activities and traditions, that you are doing it wrong, and you’re damaging your kids. There’s so much real darkness and evil in the world, why are we giving our neighbors a hard time about how they celebrate Christmas and the holidays? We are each responsible for our own families, for our children and their moral growth, and nobody else’s and we should have faith that the Lord is working in other people’s hearts and families, just like ours.
Anyway, I’m going to try not to let this apprehension about Advent take me over. Sometime in the next few days, I need to make sure I pick up new Advent candles. I’m going to try to finish up Christmas shopping so I have time to do Christmas cards and Gus’ stocking in December. I’m going to pull out our Christmas books and make sure we start reading about the Nativity so it’s all fresh in Sara’s mind. I have it on good authority that St. Nicholas is bringing Sara and Gus their own Nativity scene on December 6th. [Although, as an aside, I’m getting the feeling that some people think that the Fisher Price Little-People Nativity is not authentic or beautiful enough? No, it’s not Fontanini, but it is toddler proof. I love Melissa and Doug and all things classy and wood like any other middle class American mom, but I do get so weary of the war against plastic toys.]
I think our world is desperate for the peace and joy of Christ, don’t you? That’s what I’m going to try to focus on this Advent and Christmas.