I was recently told that Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” begins Oct. 26. This news brings excitement and dread to numerous people I know, and it is symbolic of a larger trend I want to discuss.
The first group of excited people are typically those who love anything Christmas at any time. It could be the dead of summer, and they want to hear music involving chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Like it or not, there’s something about this group’s dedication to Christmas you have to admire at some level.
The next excited group about the “Countdown to Christmas” includes those who simply love Hallmark’s holiday movies, especially the feelings they bring about. Even those who do not thrive upon the romantic plotlines, many people like that Hallmark harkens to a Thomas Kinkade-like world, where good always triumphs over evil and where guys always say and do the right thing.
Some of the people I know who groan at this earlier “Countdown to Christmas” do so because they simply dislike Hallmark movies. This is typically either due to personal taste or just having been overexposed to them, in which all the movies seem alike.
Still others groan at this news because the start of the Christmas season keeps creeping further back. It’s this latter element I wish to address at some length.
Part of our calendar confusion comes from the fact that we are living in a society that does not know what to do with holidays. Large elements of society want to make nothing of holidays. Others want to have culture wars over every holiday. Still others want to pick and choose what holidays should be recognized. Take Columbus Day, a secular holiday that has fallen on hard times; very few know what to do about a day like that.
To put the issue in context, the Christmas season traditionally begins with the liturgical season of Advent, which is typically the last Sunday in November (after Thanksgiving). Now, we are starting the Christmas festivities prior to Halloween (or Reformation Day). In the traditional sense, Christmas is starting earlier than ever.
To offer a different perspective, I am someone who gets annoyed, not when Christmas celebrations start too early, but when they end too early. I am sometimes troubled over people who have the Christmas lights packed up before Dec. 25 is even over.
The familiar holiday song “The 12 Days of Christmas” relates to Dec. 25 and the 11 days after. In a traditional calendar, you do not stop celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25. You keep going for 12 days, until the time we remember that the wise men found Jesus. That being said, I am just thankful that any people are excited to celebrate Christmas.
That is because we recognize that Christmas is one of those holidays that has become viewed as secular but has major sacred implications. While we never want Christmas to become merely a commercial enterprise, it is encouraging that even those who celebrate it without thinking about Jesus are unwittingly celebrating the Incarnation and Virgin Birth of the Son of God, celebrating “God With Us.”
Like it or not, the “Countdown to Christmas” is here, and we can take heart that the promises and truth about Christmas continues to be relevant at every time of the year.