The “Protestant Advent Season”

So, Advent is about to begin.  In my household, the week of Thanksgiving–that American holiday wherein we celebrate the Puritan conquest of North America–it usually falls upon me to bring down about ten red and green boxes from the attic containing Christmas decorations.  Also, my quest beings to search for C6 and C9 Christmas light bulbs.  Thank you, Congress, for trying to outlaw the incandescent light bulb–one of the stupidest things to ever happen in Washington.  (I do despise LED Christmas lights.)

In any event, this is usually how the Advent season begins for Protestants.  At least in my neck of the woods.

I was thinking of the difference between Catholics and Protestants in America.  For we Catholics, the season of Advent begins slowly.  Our carved pumpkin and turnip jack-o-lanterns have all rotted away.  We’ve eaten up the soul cakes, the Hallowtide candy, devoured the Martinmas goose.  Perhaps we’ve had our hunting dogs blessed on St. Hubert’s Day–or we simply went out to the range for target practice.  Bonfire Night is over–the fireworks are spent, and the Anglicans burned up their Guy Fawkes effigies.  Advent time begins now.

And so, if we are traditional, we put up a few decorations here and there, and we might have an Advent wreath on our kitchen table.  Perhaps we put out the Nativity scene piece by piece each week.  Perhaps we even have a Jesse tree.  I know that’s one thing my kids like to do.

Another activity my family enjoys is to wake up on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) to find chocolate gold coins and oranges in their stockings, courtesy of St. Nick.  The Krampus likes to drop off a fiendish-looking card to scare the kids with and remind them to be good.  Sometimes, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the 12th, we’ll attend a party where the kids go after a piñata.

But it’s a slow build up.  And when the Christmastide begins, we have twelve full days of it.  It’s quite fun, and I’m very glad it’s drawn out over those two weeks.

But sadly, my Protestant family does not enjoy this anticipatory process.  They do not get the long peaceable build up that Advent offers.  For them, Advent is a time of rush, haste, and forced sentimentality.

“Protestant Advent”

American Protestants–at least in my region–begin Advent with Black Friday.  On this day, people go to stores and violently shove and compete against one another for various deals and sales in the department stores.  The most base and coarsest shoppers will come out on this day, and I highly recommend you avoid participating in it.  I dared to visit a Wal-Mart last year on Black Friday to get a deal on a TV.  It was pure anarchy, and I’ll never do that again.  I instead stayed home and ordered it through a website.

But Black Friday is an important day.  Intended or not, it sets the commercialized tone for this season.  It is a time for commerce and acquisition.  And most horrible of all, this phenomenon is wrapped up in a sentiment of happy emotionalism–like a sort of mask.

Christmas-themed commercials are television’s staple.  Department stores remind you of the need to buy their merchandise for that special Christmas Day with holiday end caps, holiday-themed aisles, and special department store islands that hint to you: “You must buy this merchandise, or something here, for when Christmas gets here.”

Christmas songs are played quite frequently on the radio.  In fact, there is a channel in my city that plays nothing but Christmas songs right up to Christmas Day.  But after that–for the rest of the Christmastide–there are no more Christmas songs.  There are no “twelve days of Christmas.”  It’s just one full-blast day of obligation.

Indeed, all of the nerve-wracking commercialization, the worrying advertisements, the songs that nag you to get ready, the department store fights–it’s all spent on this one single day.  After that one day, you are spent, depleted, and drained.  The volatile apprehension was for that one, single, 24-hour period, and it’s almost like a test you must pass.  The stress is akin to a standardized test.  In fact, many people get so burned out from the anxiety that Christmas causes, that they choose not to even celebrate it.

In my place, this is Protestant Advent.  Only, they don’t dare call this Advent at all, they call it “the Christmas season.”  Sure, most people know that the holiday is reserved for the celebration of Christ’s birthday.  But that is a faded fact that is hard to hear over the blaring megaphones of “SHOP NOW, AND GET A 25% REBATE!!!”

So, for all of my Catholic friends out there, I encourage you to take it easy and show these folks how it’s done.  Don’t worry about putting up your Christmas tree until the 24th, and wait until King’s Day (Jan 6th) to open those presents.  Try to put yourself outside of the fussy, distressing, holiday hysterics, and shoot for a peace-loving demeanor.  Maybe someone will notice and follow your lead next year.

One can only hope!



14 Comments on “The “Protestant Advent Season””

  1. This is a sort of arrogant, triumphalist article we really don’t need in the way it is written. It smacks of spiritual pride and “looking down our noses” at those poor benighted Prots. Except for the fact that plenty of Catholics are just as bad nowadays. If I were your English teacher, I’d have you re write this piece and show a little more humility. Our “Catholic” ranks are not much better.

    1. I disagree Ethir, it is not prideful at all to point out where protestants have gone wrong. This holy day comes from the Catholic Church and everything that the protestants “retained” from their revolt of the catholic culture is twisted into it’s exact opposite.
      It is not a good thing to follow them in this twisting of our culture. Our sensus catholicus forbids it.

  2. Loved this. We will have our Advent, and then we will have our Christmas. Advent wreath for four weeks and then a tree going up on December 24th. No Christmas carols before then. A small Christmas celebration AFTER MASS.
    I didn’t think it was “triumphalist” at all. Yes, people are doing it wrong.

  3. Great article. Very true. Unfortunately, most Catholics follow this pattern, too, the result of the VII “Protestant Revolution.”

    1. Pagans prolly…

      But even your wedding ring can be said to be of pagan origins but don’t fall for the genetic fallacy that a practice is right or wrong based simply on its source

      We Catholics have a habit of building on the culture we find, not destroying it -Grace builds upon nature – and who would refuse to go into Mary Sopra Minerva?

  4. I agree fully with premise of your essay. So much so that I’ve decided to do something about it. I decorate my lawn during advent with a giant wreath with signs and floodlights and flaming candles. The more adventesque the better I say. Just be Catholic, militantly so.

  5. I am very pleased that here in Chile there is not so much the commercialism that comes with Christmas and the advent season. As a whole there is not as much commercialism all year long, but it is especially apparent over the holiday season. We almost have NO bill boards and the grocery store has none of that porn stuff that plagues most moms and dads in the check out line in the former USA. It is very much like the 1950s here in Chile. Very safe and clean and free. More so by leaps and bounds than the USA in that way, but there is also a lost or dampened expectancy of the coming of Christ too. I credit that mood to the Liberation Theology crowd at large and in charge in much of South America and now indeed trough out the world. (Global warming, immigration and love thy murderer sort of stuff that is now popular).
    Either way it seems that it is up to us to make the season of advent what it should be, don’t you think? The coming of Christ.

  6. Wasn’t the Advent wreath a Lutheran invention? Asking for a friend.
    I would respectfully define the current status of time between “Black Friday” and Christmas Day as the “Secular” Advent Season rather than Protestant. This would define more clearly the season’s demise due to the lack of faith and understanding for the meaning and impact of Christ’s birth on the world. As a faithful, conservative, practicing Catholic, research of advent traditions indicate that both the Advent wreath and calendar are in fact Protestant inventions, adopted and adapted to Catholic practice. The tragedy lies more in the commercialization of the season than our sad division of faith.

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