The commercial Christmas season has been in full swing for nearly a month. A season that once began at Thanksgiving with mall displays, Christmas music, and holiday-themed ads now begins at Halloween (sometimes even earlier). It is no longer unusual to see skeletons and Santas side by side.
Three months of Christmas feels overwhelming, especially when the season has become synonymous with Instagram-worthy trees, picture-ready outfits, and the perfectly curated gift list. Don't get me wrong. Christmas is supposed to be a party, just not in November.
If you’re trying to not get sick of Christmas before it even starts, here are five ways to bring meaning to your Advent and reclaim the real Christmas season – all two weeks of it.
1. Let tasks linger on your to-do list.
Advent is a season of anticipation, yet filling the time leading up to Christmas with "doing" leaves little time for "waiting." Find meaning in the weeks before Christmas by giving yourself a different kind of gift: one of space and time.
Resist the temptation to get all of your Christmas preparations done by a specific date, or at all. Add in time to your calendar each day to pause for five minutes to stretch, walk outside, or pray. Trust that you'll get done each day what you were meant to and that all the rest can be saved for another time. Whatever strategy you choose, remember this: it's awfully hard to wait for something when time is a blur.
2. Prolong decorating.
Whether it's Fourth of July, Valentine's Day, or Christmas, decorations orient us to the season we're in. They’re an anchor to a specific place and moment in time.
But before you put up the Christmas tree this weekend, pause to consider what Advent décor would look like. How can the surroundings in your home symbolize a season of waiting?
In my house, Advent décor is, well, half-up Christmas décor. I let the anticipation of Christmas build by intentionally not creating the picture-perfect Christmas scene. Some years, our tree isn't fully decorated until the days before Christmas. Advent is a time of "in progress," a car ride of "not there yet." So let your decorations be in progress, too.
3. Save something for Christmas.
Decorations don't just represent a specific moment in time; they also represent the passing of time. As you take your time decorating, consider what in your home can mark the end of Advent and the start of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, how can you visually represent that the time of waiting has ended, and that it's now time to party?
In our house, we save our outdoor Christmas lights for – you guessed it – Christmas Eve. In fact, it has become a fun tradition. Just before Christmas Eve Mass, we gather outside, count down, and have our own lighting ceremony. As we drive off to Mass, we gaze at the blaze of lights and what they signify: the wait is over.
4. Linger in your new rituals.
Moving from routine to ritual and back again at lighting speed can take away the meaning of all of it. Allow yourself time to linger in the rituals you use to celebrate Advent or Christmas.
Maybe stay at Mass a few minutes longer each Sunday of Advent, sitting in the pew until your body feels the discomfort of waiting. (Imagine the discomfort Mary must have felt, too!) When lighting an Advent wreath or opening a door of an Advent calendar, pause for a prayer. Whatever your ritual, allow yourself some time for it to really sink in.
5. Leave the tree up (and keep the party going!).
When the season starts months ahead of time, it is no surprise that people are done with Christmas once the day is over. (Has anyone else noticed the number of Christmas trees that are out on the curb by December 26th?)
Before you toss that tree out, remember that Christmas Day is only the start of the Christmas season. It is meant to last nearly two weeks! Spend time during Advent to plan how you will celebrate each day of the Christmas season. Maybe it's dessert every night after dinner, or perhaps you save a gift or two from Christmas morning to open later. You can even use the 12+ days of Christmas to lighten your Advent to-do list. Consider sending your Christmas cards during this time or host that Christmas party you weren't able to earlier in the month. However you decide to do it, make the most of those days. They're meant to be a party!
In the Catholic Church, Christmas is a season all to itself, just not the same season that department stores and TV commercials would have you believe. This Advent, bring intention to how you move through the weeks before Christmas. Above all, recognize that this time is not yet Christmas. Those days are coming, but they are not yet here. And that's okay – all the best things are worth waiting for.