Tuesday, November 26, 2019

And So It Begins

November 1 was All Saints Day…and the day that the money gets automatically switched over from my Holiday Club account at the credit union to my regular savings account, as if to say “Gentlemen, start your engines. It’s time to start Christmas shopping!”

And yes, despite what you might think, the two are related…at least they are in my mind.

All Saints Day is not a major church holiday. Well, let me rephrase that…it’s a big deal in my church, where on All Saints Sunday we name all those friends and family who have died in the past year, and light candles in their memory…but outside of what I’ll call the “liturgical churches”, outside of Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and some Methodists, I’m guessing that it’s not much heard of or celebrated. After going to Sunday School for many years at Mount Olive Baptist Church in East Orange, I first heard of it when I joined the choir at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in South Orange. And if you’re a Christian who’s never heard of All Saints Day, or whose church doesn’t celebrate it, then you’ve just proven my point.

I’ve heard it said by a number of pastors and theologians that Christmas isn’t the important holiday…Easter is. And yet, to me this seems to be a chicken and egg issue. After all, could there even have been Good Friday and Easter had there not been a Christmas? Couldn’t one say that Christmas celebrates the beginning, while Easter celebrates the completion?

But I digress…sort of.

All Saints Day is not a major church holiday for most Christians. Many people in the church, and most people outside of it, have never heard of it. It’s strictly an “in group” day. You go to church, you do the standard All Saints Day hymns (and there are some), you have some special music for the occasion, you listen to a sermon about those who have gone before us, you go up and light a candle for your friend or family member, and then you go home. It’s just like any other Sunday, but special.

Oh…and of course, it comes right after the four-week run up to the big candyfest of the year…Halloween.

Now imagine if Christmas was like All Saints Day.

Really…isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be like? Imagine if Christmas was a little in-group religious day that we had all to ourselves. A day where we went to church, did all the standard Christmas hymns (of which there are many), had special music for the occasion, and listened to a special sermon before going home.

And you know something…it is. Christmas, the religious holiday comes at the end of a six or eight-week run up to the Yuletide, which was there first. The problem, and I’ve said this before, is that the Church thought it could tame Yule by putting the Feast of the Nativity on the same date. But instead of Christmas taming Yule, Yule sucked up Christmas…to the point where many of us confuse them with each other, and get upset over the commercialization of “our religious holiday”, which isn’t really the case.

Ah…but what if it was different? Suppose the Church had decided to put the Feast of the Nativity at some other time? Then we could have our little religious holiday all to ourselves, and not get into a snit about people saying “Happy Holidays” during the last six weeks of the year, and claiming it to be part of a “war on Christmas.”

But you know what? It is what it is. To paraphrase the old commercial for Certs mints, “It’s two, two, two seasons in one”…or at least overlapping with each other at the same time, so much as to be almost indistinguishable from each other.

And so it has begun…the preparations for both the secular and sacred celebrations of the Christmas season. We can have both.

And I’m going shopping.