Over at Experimental Theology, Richard Beck reminds us why it matters that It’s Still Christmas.
We all lament the commercialization of Christmas. But what few Christians realize is how we unwittingly enable this trend by restricting Christmas to a single day. If you restrict the celebration of Christmas to a single day you strengthen the association between Christmas and opening gifts. The point of Christmas becomes the shopping for and opening of presents. In fact, for many I’d say that Christmas is officially over once the presents have been opened. Christmas isn’t really even a whole day. It’s a few hours lasting from the time the kids get up until the presents are all opened. In many Christian households Christmas lasts about an hour, roughly from 6:00 am to 7:00 am. Christmas is over before lunch on December 25th. No wonder the opening of presents has come to dominate the celebration of the Incarnation.
The celebration of Christmastide, the full Twelve Days of Christmas, can help push against all this. Christmas isn’t an hour. It isn’t a morning. It isn’t a day. It’s a twelve day season.
So let’s resist the cultural push to be productive and “get Christmas put up” as soon as possible. Leave the tree and the Nativity set out. Let’s slow down and prayerfully linger. Yes, well into the New Year. Let the kids learn that Christmas cannot be reduced to the one hour when they opened their presents. Christmas isn’t over. We’re still in the middle of it.
Of course whether we’re still in the middle of ‘it’ depends on what the ‘it’ is. If we’re talking about the secular celebration of Christmas, then ‘it’ is over. If we’re talking about the original Christian feast- the one that gave the world Dec 25th as a holiday, ‘that’ is still going on in Xian homes around the world.
Many Xians know only the truncated version, and when we’re formed (as all practices form us) by an observance that the most secular can happily participate in, then it oughtn’t be surprising that we end up shaped in a secular direction.
You can’t beat something with nothing. For those who don’t know: an invitation. There’s another way ( a much more ancient and joyful way) of celebrating Christ’s birth. Christmas as festal season that extends over, around and past the opening of gifts that Santa left under the tree.