By the rest of the world's standards, we're behind in our Christmas preparations. Well, we're a little slow by our considerations, too, since we do like to have the tree in place before Christmas Eve. This year, with more than the usual lack of financial overflow sprinkled with extra work and a bit of sickness, coupled with the fact that we never got around to cutting a tree down until December 23 and then couldn't quite remember where we stored the tree stand, we've given ourselves a bit of leeway.
Other than that, we're right on time.
You see, we celebrate TWO Christmases at our house, or, more correctly, we celebrate the same Christmas twice, on December 25th (Gregorian calendar) and January 7th (Julian calendar), the latter also being Rebekah's birthday.
Plus, as Eastern Orthodox Christians, we celebrate a six-week advent, more correctly known as the Nativity Fast or by its nickname, St. Philip's Fast (because it begins on his feast day, November 15). Except for St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, we're more or less (except for occasional chocolate consumption) in preparation for the Christmas season.
Generally, we begin our festivities on December 24 with a traditional twelve course meal, which we forewent this year due to half the household being down with a stomach bug. Instead, we watched a terrific movie--The Encounter--and then spent the evening in Morris with Joshua and his baby son Ezekiel.
On December 25, we attended Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Homewood (after first traveling back to Morris for Ezekiel), followed by caroling, then back to Morris to drop off Ezekiel, then to Plainfield for a holiday family party, and then back to Morris for the evening. All in all, we traveled a hundred miles that day, by Timothy's count.
Yesterday, the feast of the Synaxix of the Theotokos (Mother of God), Christopher found the stand and dragged in the Christmas boxes so Rebekah and my goddaughter Rachel could spend the evening decorating while I read, answered, and purged hundreds of backed-up emails. They saved my two newest ornaments for me to hang up. I kept my hands clear of the needles and did not hive up, WHEW!
Today is the feast day of protomartyr St. Stephen, the 29th is The Holy Innocents, and January 1st is Jesus' circumcision. All the way through January 7th, we'll be baking, opening presents, etc. culminating with the Christmas celebration of our immediate family. Meaning, if you're not a child, grandchild, or spouse (or soon to be spouse), you're not invited.
While this may sound stingy or inhospitable, as my family grows, the demands on our time and ability to come together under one roof grow more and more challenging. As the family expands, the extended family quite rightly claim their share of the time and making of plans.
By selecting a day when the much of the Western world has long forgotten even the post-holiday blues, we gather simply, atlhough not necessarily so quietly, and enjoy each other and the birth of our Savior in a way that is generally not possible the rest of the year.
Practically speaking, this means we take advantage of post-Christmas sales (the best time to commence Christmas shopping). We also avoid any post-Christmas let-down since we extend the holiday longer than most people. The Christmas really doesn't officially end until the Presentation in the Temple on February 2, and it is quite possible the tree will remain fresh that long.
Spiritually speaking, our Christmas occurs in an out of the way place, away from the hustling and the bustling, in a manner similiar to the birth of Jesus Christ in a stable more than 2000 years ago.
Eccentric? Maybe? But then, there is nothing normal or natural in the ordinary sense of the words to a walk closely paced with Christ, a walk to which we are all called.
Christ is born! Let us glorify Him!