This year I was in the garden centre on 5th November (Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night!) and they were playing Christmas music and there was an extremely tacky jiving Father Christmas display. ON THE 5TH OF NOVEMBER?!?! Then I drove home to Newark on Thursday evening and discovered that the Christmas lights were on in the main shopping area (NOVEMBER 30TH!). That lunchtime there was an interview on the BBC news with the parents of a young baby, in their home was a large Christmas tree and the baby was playing with baubles and a cracker. It wasn't even December then! This is mad, it starts earlier and earlier every year.
When I was little my great-uncle (who always came to us for Christmas) used to ask if we'd got any parties lined up for the days between Christmas and New Year. We never had as we'd already been to loads. When he was little you spent Advent preparing for Christmas and then celebrated Christmas at Christmas and for the days afterwards. Which seems much more sensible to me. Now everything goes flat immediately after Christmas. I can't help thinking that, even if you're not Christian and don't celebrate Christmas as a religious festival, but a form of winter festival, the whole starting early thing is just more crazy commercialism.
I hate getting to Christmas and not wanting to sing carols because we've already been singing them for four weeks already (what happened to those beautiful Advent hymns?!). We never used to put our tree up at home until the Saturday before Christmas. This Christmas will be my first Christmas in my new house and I've invited my family round to spend it with me, but the decorations ain't going up until 23rd! I was considering boycotting all shops that had Christmas music and Christmas displays up before December, then realised that I'd have to starve for all of December.
One old lady at church told me that she saw Advent as a time of penitence and preparation (much like Lent). And I'm going to work through an Advent book in the hope of being able to think along those lines instead of getting depressed about the too early Christmas stuff (Hope That Transforms - daily readings for Advent and Christmas). Some practical preparations have had to be made. I have bought my Christmas cards, although I haven't written any yet. And I enjoy the early preparations - making the cake, puddings and mincemeat. I tend to buy presents for family over a few months anyway to spread the cost out, and, obviously, knitted presents need starting earlier! ;-) I like Advent as the beginning of a new year and a time of hope (which contrasts nicely with the increasingly dark days and lack of light) and the feeling that things are going to get better.
So, have a good Advent!