The holiday season is now upon us. If you are like everybody else you face the next 6 weeks or so with a mixture of Joy and Dread. I hope that the joy will outweigh the dread but for many, this is not the case.
Why do we allow the most joyous time of year to become a burden? Why do the stores dress for Christmas before we’ve gotten rid of the last bite of Halloween candy? I blame President Roosevelt.
Before WW2 no one thought about Christmas until about a week before. The Holiday Season began on December the twenty-fifth, Christmas Day, and ended on January sixth, The Feast of The Epiphany, the celebration of when the Wisemen came to Bethlehem. So all the fun stuff we do now, before the 25th, like Christmas Parties and multiple family visits were all done after the 25th. There was even a party held on the eve of The Epiphany called a 12th Night Party and people would gather to play games and sing songs and enjoy themselves. This 12th-night party is mentioned in Stave 3 of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol when Scrooge is visited by The Ghost of Christmas Present. Twelfth Night should remind you of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas because those were the 12 days that are mentioned in the song. The time between December 25th and January 6th.
President Roosevelt changed that with a very small snowball that rolled downhill and turned into a snow monster. He asked that everyone do their Christmas shopping extra early so that packages being mailed to soldiers either here or overseas would arrive before Christmas, This was a great idea for the soldiers but it turned into what we have now. Roosevelt even tried to move Thanksgiving from the fourth Thursday in November to the third to allow people more time to shop, Thankfully he did not succeed in this endeavor.
If you watch the I Love Lucy Christmas show you’ll notice that they don’t get a tree until Christmas Eve or decorate at all. Black Friday, the big sale day after Thanksgiving, did not begin its yearly craziness until the 1950s and then grew stronger thru the 60s and seventies. Now Black Friday can either make or break many businesses.
The history of Black Friday has nothing to do with retail. How retail adapted the name seems shrouded in mystery. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving was given its name by Philadelphia Policemen. In the early days of football, the Army-Navy game was played on the day after Thanksgiving. This would bring many visitors and tourists to Philadelphia. This caused the police departments to have their officers work overtime and pull extra shifts at a time when the rest of the country was taking a break. So the Philadelphia cops named the day Black Friday.
And with a Bang Christmas is upon us. If you live in the most typical of North American homes you don’t even get a chance to enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers before the shopping frenzy starts. As the years have gone by this frenzy has gotten worse. This year the stores are claiming you’d better get all your shopping done immediately or the gifts you want to buy won’t be available with our current worker shortage. In times past the big stores and malls were opening at Midnight on Black Friday or any early hour of the morning. I remember back in the early days of early store openings going with my brother-in-law to Best Buy and waiting in quite a line for a 6 a.m. opening. The doors opened and insanity struck. People pushing and pulling and even slamming folks into other aisles to get to the sale item they wanted. I never went to an early opening again.
The message seemed to be “Thanksgiving is over now let’s kill each other.” This is not the message of Thanksgiving or the message of Christmas.
Maybe it’s time to start slowing down. Yes, there is a lot of preparation for Christmas but do we have to begin that preparation on Black Friday? I want our retail stores to have great Christmas sales, but they can get our money a few days or even weeks later. We will buy gifts and shop just not that day. I think we should have Blue Friday. In fact, Sky Blue Friday.
On Sky Blue Friday we take up where we left off on Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, we gave thanks to God and maybe to the people who made our lives a little better or helped us through hard times our focus was outward. Not thinking about ourselves but of God and other people. On Sky Blue Friday I believe we should look inward. It has been said that an “unexamined life is not worth living,” yet many of us rarely take the time to examine where we are or who we are. We don’t ask if who we are is who we want to be?
Self-examination can be hard but it is also a gift we can give ourselves. In Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is forced to examine his own life by looking at his past, seeing his present, and getting a glimpse of what his future would be if he persisted in his present course. On Sky Blue Friday we should do the same examine our past and present and see where our current, attitudes, beliefs, jobs, work ethic, relationships, and hobbies may be leading us. If all is well then there is nothing to do if all is NOT well then we need to determine what changes need to be made and make them.
Black Friday being replaced by Sky Blue Friday can lead us right into the next part of the holiday season, Advent. Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. It is celebrated in Churches as the four Sundays before Christmas. More often than not the first Sunday of Advent will fall on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The traditional Advent Calendars that you buy in the store with the little windows that open up begin on December first but that is not the Advent season.
Advent is a special time. At Easter, we go through Lent and in some way try to participate in the sufferings of our savior. In Advent, we are looking forward to the coming of our Savior, and this is with great excitement and joy because we know what he brings will be good. For the Christian, we look to the past for the birth of Jesus into this world and to the future for his promised return.
Advent is a time of preparation. Many churches have Advent Wreaths as part of the season but this is also something you can do with your family or even by yourself. Advent candles and wreaths are available on Amazon or you could easily make one yourself with fresh evergreen branches some wire and candle holders. You can check out the Gospel for each day on the liturgical calendar. Both Catholics and Protestants use this calendar. On the first Sunday of Advent, you light the first candle read that day’s Gospel, and say a short prayer. Maybe even sing some carols or turn on the Christmas Music. Then each of the following days you do the same reading the Gospel for the day. If you want to make it simpler there are many advent devotionals you can use if the liturgical calendar isn’t for you.
This is a great way to spend Advent it will slow you down and it will help you focus on what we are really celebrating. If you’re reading this and you are not a Christian do this anyway. There are a lot of bad things being said about Christians these days and most of them are false. If you prepare for Christmas this way you’ll get a taste of who Jesus was and is and it may make your celebration even more joyful. You may find yourself wanting to know more about Jesus.
Speaking of Joy, did you know that the song Joy to the World is not actually a Christmas song. It’s not about Jesus first coming over 2000 years ago, although we sing it with that in mind. The lyricist’s intention was this song to herald the second coming of Jesus. This is the song we will be singing when Christ comes back as he promised he would. Now we sing it in anticipation of that event.
There are so many ways to slow down in this upcoming season. Take in a concert, See a production of A Christmas Carol. There will be a whole lot about A Christmas Carol in an upcoming Blog. Better yet read A Christmas Carol. The book has so much more than any filmed version. I haven’t forgotten Thanksgiving. Here’s a last word. God gives us the sunshine and the rain. He makes the crops grow and so supplies us with food. He gave us life and each of our lives is precious to Him. When you sit down with whomever you share Thanksgiving with or if you are by yourself take one second, a moment and remember all He has done.
Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!