(Salt Lake Tribune) Christmas can wait, Utah’s Catholic bishop says

Utah’s Catholic bishop is putting the brakes on Christmas.

In his first pastoral letter to Utah’s 300,000 Catholics since becoming their shepherd in 2007, Bishop John C. Wester asks that members hold off celebrating Christmas until the season actually begins Dec. 24.

Catholics, Wester says, ought not have early parties in their homes or churches, light up their trees or decorate their schools with more than simple wreaths and boughs of green.

Instead, the bishop writes, Catholics should remain faithful to Advent, a four-week season that began Sunday and focuses on prayer, reflection and the joyful expectation both of Christ’s birth and his return at the end of time.

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Advent, America/U.S.A., Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

20 comments on “(Salt Lake Tribune) Christmas can wait, Utah’s Catholic bishop says

  1. Henry says:

    Yay for Bishop Westor! It is a battle I fight every year…and so far, I think I’m losing!!!

  2. advocate says:

    My kids are already wanting us to decorate for Christmas. I try to hold off until about two weeks before, but it is hard to do. Also, I like keeping the decorations up for the full time between Christmas and Epiphany, but boy do people think you are either strange or lazy about getting the decorations down for a holiday that is “clearly” over!

  3. Br. Michael says:

    Good for him! At least keep the decorations up through 12th Night.

  4. Teatime2 says:

    Seriously? So, we’re supposed to be running around trimming the tree, putting lights on the house, and doing the decorating all on Christmas Eve? Seems like this bishop may delegate all of that sort of work to his staff and has never had to put what he suggests into practice for himself.

    My decorations do stay up until Epiphany every year. But to do all of that work on Christmas Eve and only enjoy them for two weeks is unrealistic. How is it impossible to prepare prayerfully during Advent AND enjoy preparing the house? It’s our tradition to put the creche on display without the baby Jesus and add Him to the scene on Christmas Eve.

  5. justice1 says:

    And why the concession of wreaths and boughs of green? Sounds like a slippery slope to me. Next thing you know, Catholics in Utah might be putting big red bows on the front of their cars.

  6. Sarah says:

    RE: “And why the concession of wreaths and boughs of green? Sounds like a slippery slope to me.”

    ; > )

  7. Dan Crawford says:

    The biashop might better use his letter to encourage his flock to use all the Christmas music and decorations as meditations on the awesome mystery of the Incarnation and to critique the incredible nonsense that passes for today’s Sparkle Season.

  8. Larry Morse says:

    Isn’t it strange that at 12 noon on Christmas Day that Christmas is officially over as far as the media and the music world is concerned? i know people who take their tree down on the day after Christmas. Phew. Done. Ok. Let’s get on with the New Year’s party.
    But out here (where I am) in the boondocks, folks leave their outdoor Christmas lights up for months because they are snowed in and they like the sheer beauty of the Christmas trees so much, and the fragrance of the balsam is so sweet, that people often leave the trees up for a long time too. maybe it has nothing to do with religion, but winters here are so long and can be so harsh that the trees give the shut up house air a freshness and a sense of green that helps take the edge off the long cold nights and the bitter days. And I am sympathetic. I try to take the tree down right after 12th night for thoroughly pagan reasons: 12th Night ordinarily is the day that the sun begins to rise a minute earlier in the morning and the year has truly turned. For the season of deep snow and -20, the rising of the new sun is God keeping his oldest promise, that the year will be renewed again and yet again. (Incidentally the sun will set a minute later in the next day or two, which is the beginning of the birth of the new year. It is obviously no accident that Advent and Christmas closely match the rebirth of the sun. Larry

  9. Paula Loughlin says:

    Good points Teatime2. I see no valid reason for Christians to celebrate Advent at all. We should get into the rush of Christmas as soon as possible. The day after Halloween works for me. All Advent does is get in the way of our true anticipation for Christmas which is about tree decorating, present buying, and getting the house decked out in holiday finery. Maybe in the old days when people had more time on their hand a period of meditation and hopeful expectation was o.k. But not now we are busy people and any suggestion that Advent be observed as a season in its own right is ludicrous.

  10. Henry says:

    Thank you #9, Paula!!!

  11. elanor says:

    Mr. Morse, it may not get down to -20 all that frequently in my neck of the woods (central CT, so it’s more like +20), but I’ve seen wreaths and green roping still adorning many home exteriors well into February. Green is nice when everything else looks dead! (that and it’s a royal pain to take down the decorations amidst the snow drifts)

  12. Anglicanum says:

    If you’re looking for an Adventish option, you might consider this: in our family, we buy a tree, bring it in, and decorate it with *lights only* on 1 Advent. On 2 Advent, a few homemade ornaments. On 3 Advent, the wreath and some greenery on the mantle. On 4 Advent, a few of the nicer ornaments. On Christmas Eve morning, we LOAD DOWN THE TREE with garland, tinsel, the rest of the ornaments; we put up the stockings, the angel–basically, everything we can find.

    We started this when my 14yo daughter was a tot and the kids love it. Mom and Dad love it too, because it (1) teaches an object lesson about anticipation, and (2) spreads the whole decorating-thing out over a while, instead of an afternoon. When combined with the Advent wreath every night at dinner, the kids really get into the swing of things. I think they’d be disappointed if we put up everything the day after Thanksgiving.

  13. Katherine says:

    When we lived in northern climes we always left our wreath and outdoor greenery up until the day before Ash Wednesday. Epiphany season is still a celebration.

  14. Teatime2 says:

    Is that what I wrote, Paula Loughlin? Seems to me that you are taking extreme license with my words and opinion — for what personal or nefarious reason I do not know.

    So, I will be clear. No, I don’t join the throngs and commercialization of Christmas beginning at Halloween. I do pick up gifts for my loved ones when I see nice things on sale or clearance throughout the year because I’m on a very limited income and I am not physically able to shop much or often. If that bothers you or the good bishop, I really don’t care.

    As for decorating, it brings me pleasure to slowly begin decorating after Thanksgiving. It takes time because of my disabilities, as well. I love to listen to carols and bring out my decorations. The look on my son’s face when he comes home from college and sees our favorite Christmas decorations and the tree is wonderful. There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying Christmas decorations in Advent through Epiphany.

    If you and your bishop want to do something different, feel free. But don’t heap the hyperbole and vitriol on those of us who find your prescriptions impractical and unhelpful. Somehow, I don’t think that Jesus minds one bit that the carols and lights make us think of Him and His Incarnation before Dec. 24 (which wasn’t even His birthday).

  15. Teatime2 says:

    Your tradition sounds lovely! When my son was small, we started a similar tradition. I have a lovely Nativity scene that we would bring out on Advent 3 — Mary, Joseph, and animals only. We added Baby Jesus and the shepherds on Christmas Eve and the 3 Kings on Epiphany.

    Despite Paula’s claims about my traditions, I don’t get our tree until Advent 2 or 3, depending on the dates. I still don’t have our tree yet because Advent 2 is so early this year!

  16. Paula Loughlin says:

    Teatime2. I mistook your intention but I think you also mistook the Bishop’s intention. Which was to remind us to not hurry Christmas and by doing so lose focus on why we are celebrating. I thought your remark about having staff showed a bit of uncalled for hostility and it did get my back up. My comment flowed from that and resulted in a less than charitable post.

    I do think one can decorate, buy gifts and still keep Advent but I don’t think that is true of all Christians. You fall into the former category but the Bishop was addressing those who fall into the latter. I was wrong to suggest otherwise and I do sincerely apologize for the hurt I caused and the bad motives I attributed to you.

    I actually think it would be good if the Church reemphasized Advent as not only a time of anticipation but also one of penance. It is that aspect of Advent that we often forget and the one I think we need to remember.

  17. Larry Morse says:

    Here, for those who care at all, it is easier for Advent to be Advent. With the Beginning of December, the early dark settles in with a vengeance. The bitter cold and snow has not yet come, but the spirit knows the anticipation of the hard times, and it sags accordingly. When the worst weather comes, we face it and do what needs to be done, but the anticipation of it is worse. One retreats into oneself and considers the darkness. But with the coming of Lessons and Carols, the spirit begins to rise again, and the rise is sharp and sweet, as strong compression released produces a disproportionate rebound.
    So Advent, so Christmas, here in the Cold World.
    Are there clowns out there for whom shopping is all in all? Those appalling people who light up their lawns and houses with every flashing gadget and sound money can buy (One guy here has his lights and sound system hooked up to his computer!)? So what. Anciently, we must have withdrawn to the security of our fires in our huts or caves, there to tell stories and keep warm. We have important stories to tell to the next generation. We can do the same.
    The Bishop is wasting his time: Those who know what he is talking about already keep the season in their hearts; those who don’t, won’t, and no words will change a thing. Larry

  18. Anglicanum says:

    [i] The Bishop is wasting his time: Those who know what he is talking about already keep the season in their hearts; those who don’t, won’t, and no words will change a thing. [/i]

    Come come, Larry, what’s the use of preaching at all if that’s going to be our attitude?

  19. drjoan says:

    We took a Christmas cruise in the Caribbean one year. The ship did NOT go all out but rather added one beautiful decoration a day for the seven days till Christmas. It was pleasant to anticipate the coming beauty.
    We stay low during Advent with Advent wreaths, candles in the windows, green wreaths at the doorway. It is a hard discipline but one we enjoy. Our nativity scene (a modeled clay one our daughter made for us 30+ years ago) is set up WITHOUT the baby Jesus who does arrive on Christmas eve. And the wise men journey from the other room to arrive on Epiphany.
    It is always something to explain to folks as we DO have a Christmas open house before the 25th! No one has not come to the party because we aren’t “fully decorated!”

  20. Larry Morse says:

    Anglicanum, he has more important things to preach about – if preaching is supposed to be an effective means of change or correction. In this case he IS wasting his time, because the established habits have no reason to change. Oh, he’s right enough, to be sure, but he is merely preaching to the choir. Larry