My wife and I have had a running battle over the calendar.
It is a battle that actually pre-dates our marriage, more than 30 years ago and 31 Advents and Christmases ago. You would think that with all of the things couples have to fight about, the last thing of any consequence is a calendar, and, in fact, a church calendar.
The crux of the “discussion” is when to put up our Christmas tree. She has taken the position, as was something in our respective family traditions as we both grew up, was that the Christmas tree was to be erected and decorated the day after Thanksgiving. As I got older, began having my own tree in my own apartment and then house and began to study Scripture, I came to believe that the tree ought go up on Christmas Eve evening and then remain up through Epiphany, which commemorates the coming of the Three Wise Men.
I didn’t have much support in my household, as my two sons growing up thought they, like my wife, wanted to enjoy the entire season, beginning after Thanksgiving, and dispensing with any sense of preparing the way all throughout Advent and then lighting and decorating a tree. For a time, we would do the early tree trimming one year, later the next.
We’ve always had a live tree – there was something about the artificiality surrounding the secular observance of the day that made artificial trees just somehow not appropriate for us – with ornaments representing our family members’ lives, like ornaments from the different states where we have lived, special events like births and those representing saints (like one of St. Nicholas [see photo top] we bought the year after my dad, Nick, had died). The tree is a big deal in our household.
But over the years, I’ve accepted that one can still “prepare ye the way of the Lord” and have a tree up in the house as a reminder of living in a joyful way each day while remembering to look inside ourselves to carry that Christmas light all through the year.
Somehow, the tree also is the center of activities, for special meals during the season or listening to music in front of it. This year, we continued a new tradition, which is to decorate the tree with my 88-year-old mom and 90-year-old aunt doing the bulk of the hanging of ornaments while we all talk about the significance in our family history about each of them.
When do you put up your tree? Are there special traditions you have around the holidays?
As you prepare to welcome the birth of the Christ, there are a number of books from Franciscan Media you might want to consider, including: Franciscan Media Books Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent by Father Richard Rohr, O.F.M., and A Catholic Family Advent: Prayers and Activities by Susan Hines-Brigger, and Servant Books The Advent of Christ: Scripture Reflections to Prepare for Christmas by Edward Sri and The Little Way of Advent: Meditations in the Spirit of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Father Gary Caster.
Photos: Mark Lombard