At my house, our Christmas decorations have been up since November 6. Are we early? Is it too early to decorate for Christmas?
Liturgical correctness tells me I’m way too early to decorate for Christmas. But technically, most of us deck the halls early. The Christmas season is from December 25 until Epiphany, January 6. This is what’s properly known as the Twelve Days of Christmas. If we want to be liturgically precise, nobody should put up a Christmas tree until Christmas. But that’s not the way we do things, is it?
Most of us don’t actually decorate for Christmas. We decorate for Advent. This season on the church calendar begins four Sundays before Christmas. Perhaps your church celebrates the season by lighting candles on an Advent wreath. Most contain three purple candles, one pink, and one white candle. Click here to read about the significance of these candles. The final candle, the Christ candle, does not get lit until Christmas. The season of Advent is all about waiting for Christ and waiting for Christmas. These days, we’re not very good at waiting.
Most of Us Decorate Early
Most of us aren’t going to be liturgically correct enough to wait until December 25th to put up our tree. So, many people celebrate the twelve days of Christmas before the 25th instead of after. They wait until about halfway through December before decorating. Others hang their ornaments at the beginning of Advent, the Sunday after US Thanksgiving.
The United States kicks off the Christmas season with Black Friday. Since many people have that day off, a lot of Americans decorate for Christmas. Santa Claus comes to town riding on the back of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Liturgical purists tell me it’s too early to decorate until after Thanksgiving, and certainly not until Advent begins. But technically, if you’re decorating before December 25, you’re early to call it the Christmas season. So, when is the right time to decorate for Christmas?
When people tell me I have to wait until after Thanksgiving, I laugh and remind people that I live in Canada. Thanksgiving here is the second Monday of October. So, it’s fair game after that, right? Yet, because I love Halloween, we didn’t want to decorate before the beginning of November. But as soon as we took down the Jack O’Lantern, we hung up the greenery.
Dishonoring Veterans by Decorating Early?
Just as some in the United States will tell us to wait until after Thanksgiving, others in Canada insist on waiting until after Remembrance Day, November 11. Corresponding to Veterans Day in the United States, Remembrance Day recognizes all those who served in the Canadian military, both living and dead. Kind of like if you were to combine Memorial Day and Veterans Day in the United States. This holiday coincides with Armistice Day, marking the end of World War 1. It’s a big day in Canada, with commemorations eclipsing either Veterans Day or Memorial Day in the US. Some say that if you decorate before Remembrance Day, you are dishonoring veterans. But many veterans reply that they fought for your freedom, so you have the right to decorate whenever the hell you want.
Is It Too Early to Decorate for Christmas?
If you want to be liturgically correct, then you simply must wait until December 25. But if you agree with Charles Dickens, you can decorate any time. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge comes to his own understanding, after several ghostly visits. He says:
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”
A Mystical Understanding of Time
Christian mystics readily identify with the idea of living in the past, present, and future all in the same moment. God is in all things and all people, all the time. The omnipresence of God means that there is no place where God isn’t. It also means that there is no time when God isn’t. Hence, there is no time more sacred than another. This doesn’t turn all time into secular or profane time. Instead, it makes all time holy. So, if all time is holy and, like Scrooge, you keep Christmas perpetually in your heart, then you can decorate for the December holidays whenever you feel like it.
We Need a Little Christmas
The past few years have been difficult for everybody. Like the rest of us, my household had a couple of crappy Christmases due to COVID restrictions. We also had a death in the family that overshadowed last year’s celebrations. So, this year, we were more than ready to decorate for the holidays immediately after Halloween. It doesn’t detract from our observance of Veterans Day/Remembrance Day. We already had Thanksgiving. Plus, we’re going to combine Thanksgiving and Christmas when we visit the grandkids in Virginia. Decorating early doesn’t take away from our celebration of Advent/Christmas. If anything, it enhances it. Like the song says, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute!” By decorating whenever we feel like it, we invite peace, hope, love, joy, and the light of Christ into our lives year-round.