My Premature Holiday Message: Why My Kids Will Wait for Christmas.

My oldest came home from school and asked when we were going to put up our Christmas tree. (Apparently, a fellow student was talking about how her family already decorated and put up a tree.)

A staff member asked when they could begin to decorate the halls (deck the halls?) for Christmas in our school.

The Christmas season is almost upon us, but there is still a holiday – and a time of wonder and expectation – before Christmas everyone seems to forget: Thanksgiving and Advent. 

My wife is already listening to Holly, the Christmas music station on Sirius XM!

I know, I know! Every holiday season there is a debate of whether or not the Christmas season starts immediately after Halloween, on Nov. 1 or after Thanksgiving. I might cause a little bit of a stir with this week’s blog, so let me be clear: I’m not anti-Christmas! I love Christmas and our family will buy our first Christmas tree for our new home, as we always do, on the Monday after Thanksgiving! I just think there needs to be a holiday of thankfulness before there is a holiday of giving.

It seems like every year Christmas lights start to go up earlier, with stores already putting up their decorations and Christmas wares to sell. The day before Halloween I stopped to pick up an extension cord at Home Depot only to find Christmas threw up all over the store! (I was there to get an extension to plug in our Halloween scarecrow!) 

Yes, it seems we are fast becoming a people that cannot wait. The old joke rings sadly funny and true, “Mary hasn’t even told Joseph she’s pregnant” and many are forcing an early Christmas birth. Not in our home. Why? Let me explain.

As a priest and pastor, I’m all about the birth of our Savior! I love everything Christmas! I love devotions and decorations and cookies and carols, music, and mass! I love it all, but all in due time. 

I’m cognizant, too, of those who suffer grief and sorrow this time of year. I, myself, will be without my mom this holiday season for the first time in my life. I’d like to honor her, and those like me who are grieving amidst joy. I also honor those who cannot afford the holiday, and those who have no home or food. I remember, too, the war-stricken and refugee and migrant away from homeland and family. Yes, before I sink more deeply into the holiday, I pause to look at how fortunate I am and how wealthy we are as a people compared to most of the world’s population.

I am also aware of the depth of loneliness, this time of year, and the increase in the suicide rate, immediately following the holidays. Statistics and studies prove that people try to hang on for just one more holiday, and then when it doesn’t work out, when the anticipated or prayed for joy doesn’t come as expected, they just give up. It’s interesting since 1990 persons with no one to reach out to, even in times of crisis or great need, has more than doubled. Like our Christ when He walked the Earth, we are embodied people who need each other, and we do not do well when we’re alone. That is why, before I buy another new ornament or put up a decoration for Christmas, I will first pray for all of them and hope, that in doing so, I also teach my children to be grateful.

You see, I want my kids to know of the joy of seasonal change and activities. I want them to experience each holiday and savor every nuance of the seasons as they arrive, and little moments of grief that appear at their passing. I want them to learn appreciation and patience and gratitude. I want them to pause for the peace of Thanksgiving and the calm of Advent. I want them to gather at a dinner table without the distraction or “passing by” of just another Christmas tree. I want them to experience the thrill of jumping into a pile of fresh fallen leaves before they experience the cool exhilaration of a new fallen snow! I’d like to sit as a family and enjoy a turkey and each other before we begin to move ahead so quickly to another holiday.

For me, I find when you put decorations up before Thanksgiving, it’s like forgetting about a season of thanks and wonder yet to come, because you are moving on to the next holiday so rapidly and without deserving the wonderful gift of a pause. It seems like people get too wrapped up (no pun intended) in buying gifts, holiday decor and receiving gifts for Christmas, that they just forget about Thanksgiving and waiting. They also may forget the turmoil our Lord’s family was in the night of His birth. Poor, ostracized, under suppression from an oppressive regime, traveling to comply with a census for taxation and finding no room to lie down and rest, all the while in full pregnancy mode and exhausted. I wonder what they would have given for a brief pause. 

In the end, everyone can do what they want with Christmas lights, trees, and music, but this perhaps may be a good reason to wait just a little and pump the proverbial brakes a bit! The seasons change and as we move around the sun, we do, too. I’d like my children to wake up for every holiday after I’m gone and fondly remember what we did for each one. Every single holiday is important, because so is every single memory. 

Enjoy the little things in life. Enjoy the moments of family and pause because one day they’ll be gone, and you’ll look back only to realize each one was a big thing after all and perhaps lost because we drove by so quickly. 

No, my family won’t rush Christmas because our Lord is also found in so many places ahead of it. My three children will be better for learning this lesson now and to see the poor stable in others’ lives first. The Santa hats and gingerbread houses and tree can wait just a bit longer. We have lots of love to enjoy first.

Come Christmas come, just not so fast that we miss the important things first. 

*Photo courtesy of Pinterest

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