As a concession to modernity, I switched the church flashing lights on for the schools’ carol service
(which was lovely, as usual) and left them on throughout the last bit of Advent. Some of the neighbours have had theirs performing since November! Now we are among the few outdoor decorations still proclaiming that Christ was born in Bethlehem. What is it about our society that demands the celebration of an event before its due date? I even had a series of e-mails proclaiming “The first day of Christmas.” etc. This referred to December 1st (Which would make Christmass Day the 25th day of Christmass.) and was solely about reminding me that I had a certain number of shopping days left. (See Father Smith’s article in this magazine,)
People can’t wait to put up the decorations – and can’t wait to take them down again. Your lucky to see decorations in the shops after New Year’s Day, or even Boxing Day. I remember when Christmass trees were decorated on Christmass Eve – and left in place until Twelfth Night. (I have to admit that I am not sure if that is January 5th or 6th – Epiphany.) Many churches (and individual Christians) leave their decorations up until February 2nd – The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, commonly called Candlemass. At least it creates a talking point.
So what has caused this change in recent years? It can only be the dominance of supermarkets and chain stores. They dictate what we wear, like, dislike, when, how, and where. Hallowe’en was a very small affair involving apples and not much else until Asda (owed by the American company, Walmart) and other large stores started importing American practises – Trick-or-Treat etc. Very hard to take children around a store without them demanding this outfit or that. Schools are just as bad with non-uniform days and other money-making scams. (Don’t get me on to the dreadful “Prom”!!!) Perhaps it started with Christmass cards. I have never known such a cause of stress – until I decided not to send any more. What a relief! And before you ask, I don’t send anything extra to charity. A nourishing bottle of gin is a far better use for money saved. (I’m sure that juniper berries must count as part of the five-a-day dictat.)
Well, nothing like a little rant for the festive season. The state and the powerful, the newspapers and the television, tell us what to think and do and wear. That is how the Reformation changed religion in this land. I will leave you with the final words of Eamon Duffy in his wonderful book, “The stripping of the altars”.
“By the end of the 1570s , whatever the instincts and nostalgia of their seniors, a generation was growing up which had known nothing else, which believed the Pope to be Antichrist, the Mass a mummery, which did not look back to a Catholic past as their own , but another country, another world.”
Every blessing for the Christmass season.