Stephen Duncan

STEPHEN DUNCAN

Our society has changed the Christmas season in many ways. I’m sure you have noticed the creep of Christmas decorations earlier and earlier into the stores. I can remember as a child waiting to see Santa at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — when the official Christmas sales began. It is common to see Christmas sales even before Halloween.

But, in the church year, and in the old days, it was different.

Advent came before Christmas. A quiet reflective time when the church actually remembered the ancient tongue, Aramaic and cried “Maranatha!” Come Lord.

Christmas came at sundown on Christmas Eve. That was when the Christmas tree went up and Christmas itself began. Christmas then lasted for 12 days — yes, the 12 days of Christmas. It ended on Epiphany (Theophany if you were Orthodox) with the coming of the wise men from the East.

This was the time for gift giving. And of course as Epiphany ended the Christmas season it began Carnival, a happy time when you could eat meat (carne) right up until the coming of Ash Wednesday and Lent. That last Tuesday of course was known as Mardi Gras — or Fat Tuesday.

I doubt our society is going to change back anytime soon. Too many retailers rely on Christmas sales to make ends meet. Many people will put their Christmas decorations up as soon as Halloween is over, but maybe, just maybe, we can add back the whole idea of a season of Christmas from Dec. 25 until Jan. 6. We can all use some more joy and happiness in our lives.

Perhaps you could consider smaller gifts to friends and family during this period. Maybe you would like to add the British notion of Boxing Day (the day after Christmas when people boxed up items they did not need anymore to give to the poor). I think there is a lot of room for joy in the world, and there is no better way to spread it.

May your holiday season be blessed, whichever holidays you celebrate.

Stephen Duncan lives in Galveston.

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