Although it’s been looking a lot like Christmas for quite some time at shopping malls and stores, the Catholic Church offers a reminder about when the season officially begins. According to the liturgical calendar, it starts Dec. 24 and ends in early January on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
With that in mind, Catholics are advised to relax and take a deep breath and put off the mad rush to decorate, shop and celebrate — at least for a few weeks. Salt Lake City Bishop John C. Wester reminded Utah Catholics of this countercultural message in a pastoral letter called “Waiting in Joyful Hope.”
The Salt Lake Tribune daily newspaper said the bishop was “putting the brakes on Christmas” by urging Catholics to remain faithful to prayer and reflection during the four weeks of Advent.
It may be a tough message for some to hear, what with Christmas decor and music ever present, but there are some ideas out there to help those willing to give the liturgical calendar a try. US Catholic magazine, for starters, has an online Advent resource full of ideas on how to make the most of the four weeks of Advent.
One article in particular focuses on the 12 days of Christmas popularized by the song and stresses that although it would be hard in this day and age to limit Christmas celebrations to these 12 days, there are some ways this can be done.
One suggestion is to go ahead and decorate the tree, but don’t put the star on the top until Christmas Eve or put out a manager scene but do not add all the characters until Christmas. The article also gives plenty of ideas for how to celebrate the early January feast days as a way to give Christmas celebrations a longer and more spiritual life.