Advent officially begins for Catholics with the first Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent – in other words, this evening. Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas; a period of expectation and preparation, not yet of full celebration. We light one candle at a time in the Advent wreath, each flame being a symbol of a week of Advent and the growing light of the Savior’s coming Birth. Christmas does not start until the evening of December 24th, and it continues for more than two weeks until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (the first Sunday in Ordinary Time, usually around the second Sunday in January).
The secular world tends, in the practice, to skip Advent completely, collapsing Christmas into Advent and ending all the “holiday season” on January 1 with New Year’s Day. As Catholics, it is important that we remember that “to everything there is a season”. We will enjoy Christmas all the more if we spend the due time preparing for it with prayer and joyous expectation. Advent is a meaningful season that should not be reduced to one long Christmas Eve.
That said, I must confess that I finished putting up my Christmas tree today – just the tree and the lights, no other decorations yet – and have started listening to Christmas carols. I will decorate the tree little by little over the weeks of Advent. I know, it’s not really “liturgically correct”, but… what can I say?
How about you? When did/will you put up your Christmas tree? Answer the anonymous poll below, and feel free to comment!