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Published: Saturday, 12/1/2012

An aversion to over-decoration

BY TK BARGER
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

Today is the first day of December. It's the last day of Ordinary Time, the longest “season” of the Christian church calendar, which started on May 27 in 2012. Tomorrow Advent begins, encompassing the four Sundays before Christmas. Advent is also when the church year formally starts, so happy New Year even though our common calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, has its first day January 1.

Christmas has its own season, the 12 days of Dec. 25 through Jan. 5. That's the time the song sings about, so you still have time to find the best source for partridges, pear trees, golden rings, and the other traditional gifts.

With the Christmas lead-in of Advent only now starting, all those carols and other holiday songs you've heard in stores since Halloween's “Monster Mash” got replaced by “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” came too soon. Toledo's WRVF-FM 101.5 the River started its nonstop Christmas songs before Thanksgiving, and who knows when it will end? (Station management did not return repeated calls for information.) It seems there's more effort every year for early and extended Black Friday events, intended as present-giving incentive for customers that pretty much guarantees stores will be profitable — but my suspicion is most big purchases the day after Thanksgiving are for gifts to oneself.

When I was young, the season started unofficially with Santa at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. That was when Christmas wish lists could be started, when house decorations were gathered but not yet displayed, when the family Christmas card photo was planned. It wasn't until the first Advent candle was lit that any Christmas scenery went up — and that was still a few weeks before the tree was bought, which minmized fire hazard.

Is this sounding bah, humbug? Yeah. I'll compensate by wearing Christmas ties to work this week. My gripe isn't a war on Christmas. It's aversion to over-decoration.

I sincerely give respectful greetings to friends and family of many faiths in this month of holidays — Chalica, examining the religion's principles, for Unitarian Universalists December 2-8; Rohatsu or Bodhi Day, celebrating the Buddha's enlightenment, for the Buddhists December 8; Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, December 9-16; Solstice and Yule, for Pagans including Wiccans, marking the beginning of winter December 21; HumanLight, envisioning a good future brought by people working together, for Humanists December 23; Festivus, also December 23, continuing the popularity of a made-up holiday promoted on Seinfeld; Christmas, recognizing the birth of Jesus, December 25 for most Christians; and — not a religious holiday but spanning December 26 to New Year's Day — Kwanzaa, exploring cultural roots for African-Americans. Add to this list December events in other religions. Happy holidays to all.

I'm actually okay with the commercialization of the beginning of winter. I know that this abundance of snow creatures, pompom-topped hats, and reindeer with red lightbulb noses grew out of religious celebration, that once upon a time the decorations outwardly expressed a person's inward faith, as well as helped Christians in early years of the religion to have their own recognition in the time of popular solstice gatherings. My bah, humbug attitude comes from the saturation of over-the-top sameness. Seeing one inflatable Santa-in-a-helicopter is plenty, a fleet in every neighborhood is too much. Christmas and winter-oriented music is good for a month, mixed with other tunes, but hearing it all the time for six weeks ruins it for future years. Wreaths on car grills no longer yield amused points from pedestrians.

Maybe I'm too accustomed to the Christmas religious theme rather than pop-culture holiday kitsch, and I'm missing the wonder of past (and, admittedly, younger) times. Bah.

Having written this, let's hope I've gotten the humbug out of my system and can receive some spiritual renewal with all The Blade readers who are celebrating a holy birth.

Maybe some eggnog will help me. Be merry.



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