If you had visited me during the weeks preceding Christmas Day, you would not have seen a Christmas tree or a single Christmas decoration or light anywhere in our house. No, we were not feeling "scroogey". Nor were we in any way "grinchy", though I think some people may have thought so, because even atheists decorate for Christmas. They, not believing in the Birth of Christ, of course, prefer instead to focus on the family-oriented, gift-giving side of the holiday. This is Ridiculous (Why yes, I did mean to capitalize that word, thank you!), because Christmas means NOTHING apart from the miracle of the Virgin Birth of God the Son, and the word family is meaningless without God, who is in Himself a family.
Contrary to what department stores and your local Target would have you believe, Christmastime does not begin the day after Halloween, nor even the day after Thanksgiving when bargain hunters everywhere forsake their warm beds to get the best deals at their favorite stores in the wee hours of the morning. I am not saying this is evil, far from it. In fact, I admire those women who can finish all of their Christmas shopping in one day and can then relax the rest of the time until Christmas. I certainly do not have it in me to brave long lines, flying elbows, and freezing temperatures just to save a few bucks. I would much rather snuggle in bed with a warm, sweet-smelling baby and order gifts online in my jammies.
Where was I? Oh, yes! Advent. Advent is the period of time preceding Christmas. We add straws representing good deeds to Baby Jesus' manger so as to make a soft bed for him, light our Advent candles as we sing "O Come, Emmanuel", and generally try to spend the season as quietly as we can, preparing our souls and our home for the coming of The King. On the last Sunday of Advent, we put up our tree and the kids decorate it however they will. This year, Princess Pea, now seven, took charge and told the younger kids where all the ornaments should go. Obviously unsatisfied with their first attempt, Princess Pea rearranged the ornaments for several days in a row (making me wonder if my eyesight or my mind was going because the tree was different every time I looked at it) until she finally settled on an artistic arrangement which included all of the glass ball ornaments being displayed on the very bottom branches and several bird ornaments at the very top. On Christmas Eve, we went to Mass earlier in the evening, because there was no Midnight Mass near us, and sang with joy for the coming of our Saviour. Then we returned home for a light dinner and bed.
The next morning, we had four children in our bed before the sun came up, three of whom were excitedly jumping up and down in anticipation of seeing the tree all lit up with presents beneath and the Baby Jesus in his manger. Indeed, they were not disappointed. Each one gasped when first they saw it as they went downstairs. Oh, what a joy it was to see their eyes alight on Christmas morning! How much more does our Heavenly Father delight in giving gifts to His children, He being perfect and we mere mortals.
Presents unwrapped and "thank yous" ringing (for the children know from whom every gift comes, as Good St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra brings them treats and trinkets on his feast day of December 6 and not on Christmas), we dress in our best and spend the day feasting. That is the first day of Christmas. The very last is tomorrow, the Feast of the Epiphany, in which we celebrate the coming of the Magi to the Christ Child. I will tell you more about it in my post for tomorrow, but not here. You will have to go to www.catholicsistas.com for that...