T’is the season for—
Catching up with friends and family
Receiving and sending Christmas cards
Eating too many baked delights
Complaints about “the war on Christmas” or keeping Christ in Christmas or some variation on this theme.
I know many people who become upset about the commercialization of Christmas and the fear that the religious aspect of the holiday is disappearing.
Here’s my take on this matter: I observe the season of Advent, a four-Sunday period (or 50 days in some traditions) prior to Christmas, and then I celebrate Christmas. In fact I celebrate two Christmas holidays, a tradition practiced by many Armenian-Americans. In my childhood I learned to celebrate Christmas on December 25. That day meant Christmas carols, Santa Claus, worship as part of a Protestant congregation, feasting, visits with family and friends and neighbors. That probably sounds normal to you. I also grew up with the Armenian Christmas tradition. Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6 with simpler gifts and foods that are different from American traditions. (One of those food traditions is to eat a spinach dish on January 5 because of the association of that vegetable with the Virgin Mary.) Our Christmas tree and other decorations stayed in place through January 6. I’ve always enjoyed this bi-cultural Christmas tradition.
In the Western church tradition, January 6 is Epiphany, a celebration of the revelation of God in Jesus. Many churches also observe January 6 as the time of the visit of the Magi to the young Jesus.
If you feel that the religious aspects of Christmas are disappearing, I invite you to do something counter-cultural: celebrate Christmas from December 25 until January 6! Observe the twelve days (and twelve nights) of Christmas. Make a statement by keeping your decorations in place through January 6. Don’t toss the tree on December 25 or on Boxing Day. When people ask why you’re “late taking down” the decorations, talk about your understanding of the twelve days of Christmas. Savor this season of twelve days.
Enjoy this season of Advent as it prepares us for the Christmas celebration! And remember–there’s always time for a cup of Armenian coffee.