Thursday, December 08, 2005

Next question: What ever happened to Advent? Heck, do people even remember what "Advent" is?

Do all non-Catholics reading this realize that traditionally Christmas season begins on December 25th, whereas the weeks leading up to Christmas day are known as the season of Advent? That is, Advent, a season of repentance, reflection back upon life, sin, and death, perhaps a little fasting, remembrance of God and thanksgiving, and a looking forward to the coming of Christ, both in the memorial celebration of his birth on Christmas day and in the Second Coming and Last Judgment. [Note: no mention of gift giving during Advent season.] Ring a bell? Sound like the period after Thanksgiving until Christmas that you know?

Honestly, I was wondering when Advent disappeared off the charts. Well, here's the answer...

How Christians Stole Christmas, Part II

In short...
"World War II changed the understanding of Advent and Christmas. As war swept the world, buying habits had to change. Because it took six weeks to transport anything by ship over the ocean, Americans were told to buy their Christmas gifts for their sons overseas by Thanksgiving, or their sons would not receive those gifts by February 2.

"The Christmas buying season had been December 25th through February 2nd, with the most intense gift-giving happening during the twelve days of Christmas. But during the war, it extended from Thanksgiving to February 2nd. American Protestants, that is, American businesses, liked the extra income generated by the much longer and earlier selling season."
Interesting stuff. So Kellmeyer does explain how Advent disappeared--it was replaced by the new "Christmas" season. Yet, if it's really the marketing/commercializing businessmen (just Protestant?) instigating this, why does the original Christmas season shorten? Shouldn't we have a "Christmas" season still lasting until February 2nd? That part doesn't make sense to me.

I have other questions too, but that's it for now.

Update: Steve Kellmeyer's Answer to my Question...
"They moved the entire selling season so that it runs from mid-October (Halloween is now the second biggest sales holiday of the year) through Dec 24. They've got roughly 70 consecutive days - 10 weeks - in which they drive people into the stores. Better yet, there are three distinct pushes: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in that interval.

"Compare that to Dec 25 through Feb 2 - only 38 days, and only one major push, the twelve days of Christmas.

"...this all correlates to the end of the tax season (December 31), so it also empties out their shelves right before they get taxed on inventory. It's perfectly placed, from an economic perspective."
Pretty good (and fast)!

7 Comments:

At 12/08/2005 05:01:00 PM, Blogger Brad said...

I tried to buy an advent calendar this week, but the store was sold out.

 
At 12/08/2005 05:10:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

That's cool. What kind of advent calendar?

We have an "advent" calendar back home, but while it's been a neat family tradition of ours, it really has little to do with the actual season of Advent (though perhaps it prepares one for Christmas on a very minimal level). Our calendar just has compartments with doors for each day leading up to Christmas. My mom would put a small present in for every day--usually candy or a small ornament to hang on this miniature tree we always put in the kitchen. Usually each morning then, we kids would open it and receive the little gifts (3 of them of course, one for each of us).

 
At 12/09/2005 05:50:00 AM, Blogger Brad said...

haha, what a nice mom!

To answer your question though, I was in search of a Cadbury's chocolate advent calendar. I used to have advent calendars when I was a little tike but I think my mom stopped buying them for me. Boo to that!

 
At 12/09/2005 07:50:00 AM, Anonymous Sarah Jane said...

Yeah, we had a chocolate advent calendar one year when I was a kid, but most years we put up this neat old-fashioned pop-up calendar that showed the whole town of Bethlehem (well, probably not the real town, but someone's imagination of it.) You started opening doors and windows at the bottom of the town and gradually wound your way up the hill towards the stable, which was inexplicably the highest point in the town, and also the very center. Behind each door were people doing various things -- some of them not Christmas-related at all -- and behind the very last door was the Holy Family with a brand-new baby Jesus.

Anyway. I was going to say that I don't think Protestant churches have lost sight of Advent either -- we've definitely celebrated it in every church I've been a part of. Instead, I think the economic focus of Christmas is way off. But frankly, I'm not too worried about the economic focus, because I don't think that our faith should be tied too closely to a JC Penney "sale event" anyway.

As far as keeping the Christ in Christmas, well, I think that's the responsibility of Christians who *want* their Christmas to be meaningful on a religious level. I don't expect retailers to take that burden on for me; that's not their job.

 
At 12/20/2005 11:24:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Sorry I didn't respond to this one sooner.

"Instead, I think the economic focus of Christmas is way off. But frankly, I'm not too worried about the economic focus, because I don't think that our faith should be tied too closely to a JC Penney "sale event" anyway."

Which is precisely the problem. Presently, even with the shift of name to "Happy Holidays" in businesses, Christmas is too closely tied to economics. As I've said before, I agree with Lewis wholeheartedly in standing against this "commercial racket". It's not what Christmas is about, and it's also not good for humanity in general. That's another reason why I feel we ought to worry about it. I don't want the American culture to continue down its consumerist path to materialistic obliviion. I know, even aside from my religious beliefs, that this is not good for the human spirit. So did Dicken's in his epic A Christmas Carol. I don't expect retailers to have to make sure Christmas is meaningful on a religious level, but I think I can disdain them on another level for their manipulative commercial/advertising techniques and their focus not so much on the ultimate good of their customers, but merely that their customers are happy with their products, so that they make their money. I better stop now though...the anti-capitalism is brewing in me. ;-)

 
At 12/20/2005 06:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris--

You say: "I don't expect retailers to have to make sure Christmas is meaningful on a religious level, but I think I can disdain them on another level for their manipulative commercial/advertising techniques and their focus not so much on the ultimate good of their customers, but merely that their customers are happy with their products, so that they make their money."

I agree.

One of our solutions has been to make as many gifts as possible, preferably using supplies we already have on hand, or have picked up at the thrift store. We even save pretty bottles from olives or balsamic vinegar to fill with homemade bath salts.

I'm sure it saves us money, but the biggest reason Silas and I do it is that both of us HATE shopping, and shopping at Christmastime is especially unbearable. I was really appalled at the store slogans this year: "Give MORE" and "Bring it ALL home for the holidays." The push for more, more, more is really overwhelming, and I completely agree with you that it doesn't take a religious perspective to see how damaging consumerism can be.

It's tough.

SJ

 
At 12/21/2005 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

That's cool. I like the idea of making your own gifts. It makes your gifts unique, creative, and more personal in a sense. (This is why I usually enjoy writing letters most of all, because they are often the most personal part of the gift, in that it shows it is a gift from you.)

Back to the gift making, my sister tries to do it also. Personally though, as much as I admire others doing it, I've always leaned away from such activity, perhaps simply because it didn't seem "guy" enough for me (too artsy-crafty, or something like that). But maybe I'm just letting culture influence me too much.

 

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