We are finally beginning the season of Advent. I say finally because at least three of the houses on my block have had their Christmas lights shining for the past week or so. Also, it seems that many of the stores in this city put up their Christmas decorations as soon as Halloween was over. I know that this makes me seem like the old guy that I am but I remember (with some fondness) the season of Advent when I was much younger. In our house we kept a traditional Advent. The Christmas tree did not go up until Christmas eve. The tree was kept up until Epiphany. Throughout Advent my mother (God rest her soul) spent an incredible amount of time cleaning the house and baking for Christmas. Frequently this extra work (there was already enough work for her since she had eight children and helped with some farm work) exhausted her so much that she slept through Christmas morning. Advent is intended to be a time when we look forward to the coming of Christ and prepare ourselves for this great event.
What has caused the change? I'm not actually sure. As far as the lights go I think that being this far north some people put their lights on early simply as a protest against the ever increasing hours of darkness at this time of the year. Another obvious explanation is that we actually live in a post-Christian culture where the spiritual meanings attached to the liturgical and calendar year have been lost and replaced by commercialism. I think that what remains is for individual Christians to try to retain the real meaning of the time of Advent and try to "wait" to celebrate Christmas until the feast itself. For my part I will miss (another sign of my age again) even the celebrations of a fifteen or twenty years ago when our whole family could still gather at the farm and the nieces and nephews would open gifts with their eyes wide with excitement and amazement.