I have always enjoyed changing seasons. Each time a season begins, I think it is my favorite. I love the hot, lazy summer days that bring vacation and outdoor fun along with them in June, but by September, I’m convinced that the brisk, cool autumn air that heralds sweaters, boots and hot drinks is best. Then, when the browning leaves have gotten old, I remember again that winter really is my favorite season, with its perpetual chill contrasting with the toasty home atmosphere, indoor activities and early evenings. Then, along comes spring, enticing me with its warm breezes and bursts of color and fresh fragrances.
These seasons keep the year interesting and alive throughout the year. Each time one begins, I’m convinced it’s the most wonderful, but by the end, I’m ready for them to fade, and eagerly await the new forms of beauty brought in with the approaching season. There is only one time of year that I have never gotten tired of, even toward the end: Advent/Christmas. Granted, it’s not technically a “season,” but it is a liturgical season and distinct time of year, so I think it counts. No matter how early Advent begins, and how late the Christmas season runs each year, it is always with a touch of nostalgia that I put the seasonal piano sheet music back in closet and wrap the nativity figures in bubble wrap, tucking them safely into a box to wait for the following year. Then, I begin again looking forward to the start of Advent months in advance. Even as a child, I would count down the weeks and days until the wreath of three purple and one lone pink candle would appear on the altar.
Although it is impossible to prolong the Christmas season past its ending, I’ve discovered that it is possible to move forward its beginning a little, at least for my family. And no, I don’t mean by putting up Christmas decorations in October or doing Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. I mean by genuinely celebrating the season of Advent and approaching Christmas, just a little earlier. Happily, I am married to a Maronite rite Catholic. For anyone unfamiliar with the rites in the Catholic Church, there are various Eastern Catholic “rites,” also sometimes referred to as “local churches” (sui juris), not to be confused with the Eastern Orthodox Christians. These Catholic rites are in full communion with the Church of Rome, are in union with the Holy Father, and are part of the universal Roman Catholic Church just as much as the Latin rite (also sometimes called Roman rite), that many of us are most familiar with. Every Catholic is baptized in a certain rite. If you don’t know what rite you belong to, you are probably a Latin rite Catholic – the majority of Catholics in Europe, North and South America belong to this rite, which is the largest rite of the Church.
To my delight, I found out, shortly after moving to Lebanon a few years ago, meeting my husband and learning more about the Maronite rite, that the Maronite Catholics begin Advent two weeks sooner than the Latin rite. While all the rites in the Catholic Church share the same major feast days, the liturgical calendar, including the beginning and length of each liturgical season, can vary from rite to rite. In the Maronite rite, both Advent and Lent are longer than they are in the Latin rite – Lent by two days, and Advent by two weeks. The Maronite rite thus has six Sundays of Advent preceding Christmas, rather than four.
Even though I am in the Latin rite, I believe that having a Maronite husband is a good enough excuse for our family to begin celebrating the Advent season when the Maronites do, and so… the piano sheet music and Christmas music is coming out, and I wish all of you, whether or not it has already begun in your rite, a blessed and wonderful Advent!
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)