A question with which this liturgical nitpicker wrestles each year is when shall Advent be allowed to become Christmasy? To be more exact, when should I allow my Advent to become Christmasy?
Now I am tempted to drive Santa Claus out of the mall when he arrives even before Advent. But in my more reasonable moments, I confess such enormities are not my concern. How I observe Advent is.
As the Low Churchman points out, this concern can be taken to an extreme:
As part of their Advent observance, Ritualists are forbidden to take part in Christmas activities, to listen to Christmas music, or to allude to the coming of Christmastide in conversation. If a Ritualist is forced to attend a Christmas event against his better judgment, he is obliged to stand in the corner with a downcast expression, commenting angrily to passers-by that the Christmas season does not begin for another four hours.
No, I am not quite that bad about it.
By the way Christmas begins at the first note of the boy soloist singing Once in Royal David’s City in the Chapel of King’s College Cambridge. And not a moment before. Now you know.
Anyway, I do rightly consider Advent to be a penitential season focusing on the coming of Christ and preparation for that. Thus some restraint is in order. I do a number of little things. I try to exercise some restraint in my diet (in part to offset the lack of restraint that will surely come later). I play CDs that focus on Advent music for the first week of Advent at least. Yes, those are hard to find. But my numerous Christmas CDs can wait at least that long.
I have a homemade custom that ornaments depicting Santa do not go on the . . . Advent tree until St. Nicholas Day. Yes, tomorrow. By the way, St. Nicholas is a favorite saint. I even intend to give a brief talk on him to a private party tomorrow night.
But I confess that, despite my pious efforts, by the time the Third Sunday in Advent comes around, I am unbearably Christmasy. There is no hope for me then. Even though I may continue to inveigh against premature displays of Christmas, privately I am listening to cheesy Christmas music and gazing upon lurid Christmas lights in the safety of my pick-up truck. My excuses are that the Feast of St. Nicholas and the Third Sunday in Advent are appropriate times to allow oneself to become slightly more Christmasy. But who is kidding who?
But in spite of myself, I do try to use Advent to watch and pray for Christ’s Advent and to get my life and attitudes more prepared for that blessed event.
And I guess I cannot quibble with the customs of those who do likewise . . . not too much anyway.