Christmas — not the way it’s supposed to be

The Gissing household is buzzing with the joy (and stress) of late Advent anticipation. Tomorrow is the big day–Christmas Day–which will usher in twelve days of celebration and present opening. The plan is to open one to two presents per day through the twelve days of Christmas. We’d like to do our small part to rescue Christmas from its cultural bondage and return it to what it is supposed to be: a feast of the Christian church.

Since we our eldest was born four years ago, Anna and I have started to think more intentionally about how we celebrate Advent and Christmastide. Our hope is to move further along the path to making Advent what it’s supposed to be: a period of waiting for the birth of the Christ child. Then Christmastide–all twelve days of it–will be time to party.


My father recalls the Christmases of his youth in Second World War and Post-war England. As a child, he would go to bed on Christmas Eve, no Christmas tree to be seen. On waking, he would emerge from his room (shared with the other four children) to see a decorated tree with presents around it. Christmas started on Christmas Day, not November 1.

Today, Christmas has become not a celebration of the Nativity of our Lord, but an opportunity to be manipulated by merchants wishing to enlarge their profits. Now, I’m no puritan. I have no wish to cancel or outlaw Christmas. I do, however, have the desire to make it a peaceful and grace-filled Christian celebration, something it has long since ceased to be for many.

So, in looking to 2013 we have made some plans about how we will change our celebration:

  • We will not decorate our tree until Gaudete at the earliest or Christmas Eve at the latest.
  • We will not take our tree down until the twelfth night, the eve of Epiphany.
  • We will place 1-2 presents per day under the tree for our children to open during Christmastide.
  • We will do our best to attend church on December 25.
  • We will place a greater emphasis on our Advent calendar and wreath during, well, Advent.

We need a simpler celebration and it seems that in order to do this we have to break the unwritten rules that hold a beautiful Christian holiday captive to our culture. I think this will better both for our own souls and those of our children.

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