Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Christmas can’t come before Advent

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 21, 2019

My heart sank this morning when I saw that the Christmas tree was set up in St. Peter’s Square today. We’re still ten days away from Advent!

Every year the Christmas decorations go up earlier, all around us. The “Xmas sales” begin right before Thanksgiving, and the office “Xmas parties” soon thereafter. Then all the decorations come down and the celebrations end at about noon on December 25.

For those of us battling to preserve the full “twelve days of Christmas,” and to observe the anticipatory season of Advent, the struggle is tougher every year. But I thought at least we could count on the Vatican as an ally as we resisted the pressure to commercialize the feast and move everything forward. Apparently not.

When Pope John Paul II introduced the tradition of placing a Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square, the giant fir would arrive sometime near the middle of Advent, and would be lit a few days before Christmas. In 2015 the tree was set up early, on December 8, to coincide with the opening of a Jubilee Year. The next year it arrived still earlier, on November 25. Now the trend continues.

To celebrate Christmas properly, it’s absolutely essential to make the proper preparation: spiritual as well as material. The Advent season builds up naturally toward the explosion of joy on Christmas Day. But when the bright lights go on in early December, Advent fades into the background. It’s hard to maintain that sense of quiet, prayerful anticipation with the sound of “Jingle Bells” echoing constantly through your head.

In our family, we regularly throw a party to celebrate the 4th of July. We schedule it for—you’ll never guess—the 4th of July. If you’re throwing a Christmas party this year, would you please consider scheduling it sometime between December 25 and January 6? That’s a reasonably wide window of opportunity, and you won’t have to compete with all the neighbors and colleagues who have partied themselves to exhaustion by Gaudete Sunday.

Please, save the Christmas celebrations for the Christmas season. I’ll start the revelry right after Midnight Mass* on December 24. How about you?

* And at our parish, I’m happy to report, Midnight Mass this year is scheduled for… midnight!

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: mlessens1961 - Nov. 21, 2019 11:29 AM ET USA

    This angers me. Mr. Lawler’s midnight Mass at midnight comment sums up how crazy and mad everything Catholic has become as traditions are being thrown into the winds of “progress”.