We packed up and put away all the Christmas stuff on Tuesday. It's so bittersweet, don't you think? I love that season, those decorations, the music and fun and spirit. And the house seems sort of strange without it. But brighter, and bigger, somehow. We were all ready; no one complained about it at all.
I've been thinking, in the nearly three weeks since Christmas, about Christmastime and its celebration. I've observed over the last several years a real desire for people, both religious and not, to observe Advent in a more meaningful way. Whether a meditative time of prayerful preparation, or a time to spread out the season and mark the time in a more conscious way, it seems that more and more people are embracing Advent. This, then, begs the question, "What is Advent? What is Christmastime? And is there any difference between the two?" And this is a challenging question. It can feel a bit frenzied and even discordant to thoughtfully prepare for something while simultaneously celebrating it. I haven't struck a perfect balance between the two.
But it has occurred to me recently, even as some people loudly clamor for less Christmas celebration during Advent and more celebrating in the two weeks after Christmas, that for mothers like me, there has always been a necessary overlap. Though the world is certainly more connected and commercial than ever before, it's not like the date of Christmas has been a secret for the last 1500 years (since its date has been marked on the calendar), and surely since there have been celebrations, women and mothers have been preparing their homes for them. If there are evergreens to be brought indoors, then they must necessarily be gathered in advance. The house must be readied for their arrangement. If there are gifts to be given, then they must necessarily be made or otherwise procured. If there is a special meal, then it must be planned, ingredients must be assembled, etc. All of the "things" of Christmas cannot magically arrive at 12:00 midnight on December 25. So, it seems natural that some of these ordinary, household preparations would have moved into the weeks preceding Christmas -- perhaps bringing with them some of the festivity of Christmas.
I don't know, those are just my rambling thoughts. What I'm saying is that in our home, we do try to observe a prayerful Advent, but we also delight in everything that has come to be so joyful about December during this time and place where we live. And as much as I sometimes wish that the weeks following Christmas were more like the weeks preceding it (in terms of activities, crafts, baking, and merriment), they really aren't. My sister and I were talking about this recently, and I think we were both feeling the same thing, but neither of us could really find the right words for it. We both love the weeks between Christmas and Epiphany, but they feel different. They are magical, but in a quiet way. We're more likely to stay home under quilts and read our new books than we are to go out for ice skating and cocoa.
I'm sorry this post is kind of all over the place. I've been thinking about what I wanted to write about this for more than a week, but I'm still finding it hard to find just the right words. But I'm wondering, have you experienced the same things? What do you think about this, having just wrapped it all up? I'd be so interested to hear!