It’s that time of year again, as we approach that unique mix of secular and religious occasions that are amorphously called the Holiday Season. First we have Thanksgiving, the closest that a secular holiday gets to decent religion. We are informed that this holiday was first celebrated by the pilgrims (though the Spanish claim it was celebrated earlier in St. Augustine, FL; trot out this little gem at Thanksgiving and you will deservedly be ridiculed for the Cliff Clavin that you are), but it was officially installed as a national holiday on a set date by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, who saw fit to mandate thankfulness for the Northern victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. FDR, another wallflower reluctant to impose national solutions, later changed the date to the fourth Thursday in November.
Next, we have the annual mass-worship of the god Retail, known by its remarkably descriptive name of Black Friday. The portents of this holy day are scanned, analyzed and reverently feared, as the blessings or curses of Retail are made known. It is a most amusing mix of Baal worship, Aztec heart surgery, and Groundhog Day– only six more shopping weeks until
Christmas Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or some other nondescript Winter celebratory event!
This spectacle is immediately followed by the rush to put out obnoxious Christmas lights, blow up dolls, and other lawn paraphernalia way ahead of the actual day– thus assuring that by St. Stephen’s Day we will be thoroughly sick of it all, and take it all down. I once read a blog post about this that I, at least, found amusing.
That same weekend marks the first real religious event of significance: the first Sunday of Advent. Maintaining an Advent spirit is obviously a difficult thing to do when most people don’t believe in Christmas itself, let alone the need for a time of penance and preparation preceding it. Still worse, nearly everyone, whether he believes or not, goes ahead and starts celebrating it anyway. Some really love Christmas and just can’t wait, and others are burning Christmas decorations and songs to the god Retail. Either way, you can’t escape the forced merriment.
Finally, at the end of the year, the real honest-to-goodness–Feast of Christmas comes. This feast is obviously one of the most important of the Church calendar. It has an Octave. It has an historical season that stretches to the Epiphany on January 6 (unless you attend the novus ordo, in which case it stretches to the least offensive Sunday with decent weather). It has a liturgical season that extends to the Feast of the Purification of Mary on February 2nd. February 2nd– the day your wife begins talking to you again after begging you to take down the tree for three weeks.
Well, pardon, gentles all, if I re-label the holiday season this year. I’m not referring to Festivus, either. I’m talking about Tradsgiving. If the world can lump every occasion into one long season, then so can we. Tradsgiving is the celebration of the next two-and-a-half months. Let’s say it begins with Martinmas on November 11 and continues to the Feast of the Purification on February 2. Tradsgiving is stocked with traditional Catholic feasts and customs.
First of all, this is as good a time a year as any to be thankful for Summorum Pontificum. Next, we have a real commemoration of Advent, including the Wreath, the Novena to the Immaculate Conception, the great Marian feast itself, and the now discarded Ember Days on December 14, 16, and 17. These are followed by the “O Antiphons” in the in the breviary the Octave before Christmas.
Finally, beginning on Christmas Day, there are so many rich Catholic traditions: Midnight Mass, the veneration of the relic of the Creche, the tree and the carols, all the great Saint days in the Octave and beyond (including the blessing of wine on St. John’s Day); the feast of the Circumcision, Twelfth Night, Epiphany (with the blessing of Epiphany water, chalk and the blessing of homes), the Holy Name, the Holy Family, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales and, lastly and gloriously, the feast of the Purification of Mary (Candlemas), with the blessing of Candles and the commemoration of the Purification and the Presentation of Our Lord.
So why not just step right up and call it all what it is? It used to just be known as the seasons of Advent and Christmas– back when the Church retained her prerogative to mark the seasons of the year according to her ancient cycle. But maybe we need a new tag to reclaim this most Catholic of seasons for Catholics who want to mark it.
Happy Tradsgiving, everyone!