We'd love to hear from you... your reflections and observations on this liturgical season, or your favourite childhood memories, or your current family traditions during Advent.
Following is a reflection on the tension between truly observing Advent as a time of preparation, (and celebrating Christmas and the Twelve Days) and the increasingly secular interpretation of "The Holidays Season".
Contributed by guest writer Olga Everaert
|Advent in Rattenberg|
So out come the plastic red velvet bows, the fold up Christmas tree, the blow-up Santa’s: everything predictable, over-used and artiﬁcial.
It is Advent, the time of preparation, but the rush to Christmas is on.
Whether or not one intends to celebrate the birth of Christ, I don't think there is a person who will not ﬁnd beneﬁt from a period of quiet, a time for reﬂection. In this part of the world, the approach of Winter means absence of light, days are shorter and more time is spent indoors. The house is closed off to keep out the cold and snow that muffles sound, a ﬁre in the stove and ﬁreplace. Stillness. Intimacy. An almost natural setting for more inner stillness also.
Since November, whenever I enter a store, I am subjected to the Twelve Days of Christmas, and someone who lived in California and never saw a snowﬂake in his life croons on about dreaming of a White Christmas.
The twelve days in the song actually refer to the twelve days starting with Christmas Day, or in some traditions, the day after Christmas (Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day, the feast day of St. Stephen Protomartyr) to the day before Epiphany, or the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6, or the Twelfth Day). Twelfth Night is deﬁned by the Oxford English Dictionary as "the evening of the ﬁfth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities -- and observed as a time of merrymaking."
We have just begun the Season of Advent, that beautiful time in which we prepare ourselves to receive the great gift of Christmas. And Christmas, the birth of Christ, [hence the name Christ Mass] that Christmas, lasts 8 days.
All too many of us have become victims of the commercial world, willingly or otherwise, submitting to the dictates of businesses, the pressure to shop, the demands for money, the long list of all we are supposed to do and give and spend spend spend for Christmas. All along, the real meaning is entirely lost. The message of Christmas is for ALL people of goodwill. It is a message of Peace and Joy to the world. It never was, never is, intended as a never-ending shopping spree.
My mailbox, both for snail-mail and e-mail, are crammed full on a daily basis with demands for money, 'suggestions' for 'gift' giving. Since early November the stores have multiple organizations stationed inside and out, soliciting for money. Every cause known to man wants money.
The spin is spinning out of orbit. Thanksgiving has been overcome by Black Friday. The focus here is the biggest shopping extravaganza of the year. In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and we are not at all familiar with a Black Friday, nor a Cyber Monday, whatever that may mean. To prove my point, I just read this in today’s blunt demand for money campaign "Be a Part of #GivingTuesday". Pardon me? I can't believe my eyes so I read on "The retail industry created Black Friday, Small
Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Join us in celebrating a day of giving during this season of spending." A season of spending?! it makes me want to cry. This frenzy to overturn our traditions and special holidays with shopping and proﬁts for the shops and retail business is disturbing. The most disturbing effect is that quiet preparation and enjoyment are caving in under all this pressure. Being polluted and inundated by all this extreme commercialism, is distorting our sense of preparing, entering into and enjoying our traditional holidays.
Boxing Day is no longer a day, it has by now moved from a week to an advertizing gimmick used throughout the year. And when at last we arrive, worn out exhausted and ﬁnancially depleted at our celebration of Christmas, the Christmas Season proper which has barely begun, the Valentine shopping spree begins. And so it goes.
It is not we who get to enjoy and celebrate and decide when and how we choose to do so, it is retail and advertizing and commercialism. Proﬁt has to be made during the 'festive' season or the stores are in trouble.
Another effect of this is that we are pushed harder and harder, never allowed to linger and relish the seasons and holidays as they come.
It's like get this holiday, this celebration over with so we can rush on to the next one. Sorry, I am not interested in Boxing week or month, diamonds for Valentine Day while I am celebrating the Christmas season you were so busy selling from under me in November and December. I do not want to hear about anything to do with Valentine's Day nor Mother's Day nor nor nor…
I am preparing for Christmas. It is Advent.
|Advent in Tyrol|