Sunday, December 8, 2019

"The Year Christmas Came Before Advent" Published

This article appeared in the December 2019 issue of "Your Country Neighbor."

The Year Christmas Came Before Advent
by Janet Sobczyk, 2019

(This photo of our Advent wreath wasn't submitted with the article.)

Recently I was perusing the holiday section of a children’s library and noticed there are so many picture books about some character or another saving Christmas. The message seems to be that humans (and animal characters, too) will go to great lengths to make sure Santa comes. The last illustration usually shows the character who did the saving, surrounded by smiling loved ones. 

That is the real message. Christmas is saved when people can be with their loved ones. Preserving traditions around important holidays keeps families bonded together. But what happens when family members can’t make it home for the holiday? Often times the answer is to move the date. With tight work schedules and travel from long distances many families opt to celebrate a holiday on the weekend before or after the actual date. And that’s perfectly fine. 

When my siblings and I grew up we all settled in different states: Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado. My brother who is now in Colorado was in the Air Force, so his state changed several times through the years. 

In the early years we still managed (or attempted) to get together for Christmas with my parents. I remember one of the last years we all gathered at their house, bad weather was an issue. Everyone from close states made it, but my sister from MN had to find a motel for refuge from the storm. 

Mom was so upset with the worry of everyone arriving safely that she couldn’t enjoy Christmas Eve at all. “We can’t start anything until she gets here” was her refrain as we tried to come up with things to do that evening. So, at the risk of one daughter missing out on a fun moment, the rest of us had a boring time. We did thoroughly enjoy Christmas Day together when she arrived the next morning. But the lesson I learned was to expect that these things can happen and just enjoy being with the ones who can be there. 

So now my own children are grown and some of them have to travel to get home for Christmas. I understand the worry of my mother better now. When the weather is bad, I’m inclined to say, “Stay put and enjoy whatever you can make of it, wherever you are. We can be together another day. It’s not worth risking lives.” 

Although weather can always be a factor, another issue that faces young married couples is finding ways to be with both sides of the family. That’s especially hard when the parents and the in-laws live in different states. It’s only fair to alternate, so that’s why three of our five children will not be home for Christmas this year. That’s okay. We just moved our celebration to another date. What’s important is that we can be together, right? Well, the only time that works for all of us this year is…. Thanksgiving weekend. 

We’ll have the big turkey dinner Thursday, shop and put up the tree on Black Friday, then have a ham dinner and presents on Saturday. It’s a perfectly logical plan, and I’m sure we’ll have a great time. But it strikes me as odd that we’ll be done with Christmas before the first day of Advent. 

By the time this December issue of Your Country Neighbor comes out, we’ll be done. As everybody else endures the crazy Christmas rush, we’ll be done. As people are busy wrapping gifts, ours have already been opened. 

Hearing Christmas carols throughout December might feel like hearing them in January. Enough already! Or maybe I’ll feel the way a friend predicted, “Just think. You’ll have time to sit back and enjoy the music and lights.” And the nativity set, with everything it symbolizes: family, faith, hope of salvation. Add some eggnog and Christmas movies and we’re good! 

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