I just received an email asking me to “save the date” for a “Christmas” party to be held on Wednesday, Dec. 3. “Hi friends, get a jump start on your holiday planning with our Save the Date for the [redacted] Christmas party,” the email read. Attached was a card that read “sleigh bells will ring, JINGLE, JINGLE, JINGLE So let’s get together to MIX & MINGLE.”
Now, I love an invitation to a party as much as the next girl, but this is a great example of The War on Advent (here’s where you imagine a big FOX News zooming and blinking banner as beautiful talking heads discuss how the culture is hostile to Christians).
You’re familiar with “The War on Christmas,” where we get upset that people turn what is clearly a religious holy day celebrated by the vast majority of the people in the country into a generic “holiday” season where the worst thing you can do is publicly speak the name of the holiday that almost everyone is celebrating. I agree that we should be free to say, you know, “Merry Christmas” or invite people to a Christmas party without being hauled in front of our municipality’s human rights tribunal. Desacralizing religious symbols and holidays to appease a never-satisfied progressive mob is a great way to destroy any joy or meaning associated with Christmas and pretty much everything else in life. The silliest way we “War on Christmas” is in public schools, where we sing songs about every religion’s seasonal holiday — some of which don’t even take place any time near Dec. 25, and then refuse to sing any of the gazillion awesome religious songs about Christmas.
But what about the War on Advent? This is the war that really perturbs those of us who are liturgical Christians.
Let’s cover the basics. Christmas is one of Christianity’s most well known seasons. It begins — note, it begins — on Dec. 25 and lasts 12 days. Perhaps you have heard of the 12 Days of Christmas? That would be referring to the 12-day season of Christmas, which begins on Dec. 25, the Nativity of our Lord. Advent is the season directly preceding Christmas. It’s a period of preparation and prayerful contemplation. Advent begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, which is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and covers four Sundays. The length of each Advent season can and does vary slightly. The hymns of preparation for this season are just wonderful — possibly the best of the church year — and include the Great O Antiphons, “Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending,” “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came,” “Savior of the Nations, Come” and many, many more.
Even though Advent is marked in this country by millions of Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians and many other Christians, it’s almost invisible in media coverage and cultural celebrations. And Christmas, in this country, “ends” on the day it begins for Christians, which makes things weird. The season after Christmas, by the way, is Epiphany. A traditional time of celebration was the night before Epiphany, the 12th night of the Christmas season. Perhaps you’ve heard of the play “Twelfth Night” by Señor William Shakespeare? There you go.
So if you really want to fight on the right side of the War on Christmas, you also have to fight on the right side of the War on Advent, OK? This will require something we’re very bad at in this country: a modicum of restraint and patience.
1) Advent is for preparation. Christmas is for partying. So that means Christmas parties should take place during Christmas. Christmas parties should not take place during Advent. You get 12 full days when hardly anyone is working to party all you want. Use them.
2) If you’re going to throw a secular party about sleigh bells ringing, don’t bother calling it a Christmas party. Christmas parties celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the incarnate God. Your candy cane festival detached from anything tangibly related to God is not going to be hurt by being called a holiday hoe-down, ok?
3) If you are going to host a “Christmas” party during Advent, be mindful that many traditional Christians go to Advent services on Wednesdays. So pick a different day of the week for your glutton-fest during a time ostensibly set aside for fasting and prayer. (Feel free at this point to mentally imagine Dana Carvey doing a Church Lady riff on the similarities in the names ‘Santa’ and ‘Satan.’)
4) Don’t buy Christmas decorations during the summer. I snapped this picture at the local Costco on August 25. They’re only there because you people buy them (apart from the Say’s Law-type explanation, naturally).
August at Costco pic.twitter.com/FiMVA78Pjl
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) August 25, 2014
OK, so are we clear on all this? About how the “War on Christmas” can not be fought at the expense of the “War on Advent”? And that liturgical seasons are very cool ways to get the proper amount of preparation and contemplation before the big celebration? Great. Glad we got that settled.