The orange boxes of Nerds and Fun Dip have barely found their way into the clearance bins. Old ladies have scarcely begun to arrange their made-in-China woven cornucopias on the mantles of their gas fireplaces alongside the plastic gourds and model turkeys. Christmas is eight weeks away, but on All Saints Day — the day after Halloween — I saw a sign outside a local bar advertising a "Christmas Bazaar" at what is technically my parish church scheduled for Nov. 4.
This was, if nothing else, a welcome reminder of why my family is not registered at Immaculate Conception. Already the sectaries of the Santa cult are preparing for their annual feast of grotesque GDP-boosting consumption, and we want as little to do with it as possible. Never mind the inherent iniquity of pretending that the birth of Our Lord has anything to do with snowmen or eggnog or Macy's or some late chubby 19th-century American literary character. It isn't even Advent yet.
Like "autumn creep," the encroachment of Christmas upon the final Sundays after Pentecost and the four weeks of Advent is one of those unfortunate results of living in a society in which we allow corporate marketing departments to set the tempo of our existence. The high consumer spending that accompanies Halloween and follows Thanksgiving must begin earlier and earlier each year, and the birth of Jesus Christ must be made synonymous with the purchase of certain products and a rather banal color palette, which is why Starbucks is already selling its bad coffee in red, green, and white paper cups.
Whatever happened to waiting?
Advent is a season of solemn but cheerful expectation, of self-abnegation, in which we prepare our souls to make them meet dwelling places for "the Lord the King who is to come." At Mass Catholics omit the Gloria. As Christ's coming approaches on the third Sunday of Advent, which I have long thought the most beautiful day on the Church's calender, the sacred ministers wear rose-colored vestments. During Advent, the priest almost begs, saying, "Lord, raise up thy power and come." It is as though, as Cardinal Wiseman once put it, "we feared our iniquities would prevent His being born."
All of which should explain why I have never understood the so-called "War on Christmas." That President Trump or anyone else would find it objectionable for a clerk not to bid him farewell with a "Merry Christmas" on Dec. 3 or 13 or even 23 seems to me utterly baffling. We have days and weeks and months of opportunities to remind one another that we have just commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ. Why do it early?
At my house we do not decorate our Christmas tree until the evening of Dec. 24, though we are usually forced to purchase it much earlier. The same day we listen to the annual broadcast of the Festival of Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge, before going to Mass at midnight. We put up lights that afternoon and keep them shining in every room — they get marked down to 75 percent off almost immediately — until Candlemas, the ancient feast commemorating the Blessed Virgin's appearance at the temple 40 days after the birth of Our Lord in keeping with the Jewish custom of her day. Christmastide is a season of reckless abandon and childlike joy for us. We re-watch Star Wars and catch all the college bowl games we can. We forget about budgets and drink wine that we can barely afford and heap presents on one another and our friends.
I realize that this does not leave much for people who are not Christians but who like to give one another gifts and wear intentionally ugly woolen garments and visit their grandparents during a select number of weeks each year. I would only observe that kindness is appreciated 365 days a year, that Icelandic sweaters are a great look whenever it is cold, and that Grandma's door is no doubt always open and the cookie jar likely full as long as you give a day's notice.
If you are really invested in the Santa cult, make a proper year-long religion out of it. In the meantime, put away your stupid reindeer and be patient. Christmas is still coming.