In my neighborhood I see it, they’re talking about it after church, a lot of my Facebook friends and even some of my extended family is doing it. They’re all taking down their Christmas decorations. Okay maybe this isn’t news to most of you, but I’m planning on leaving ours up for a while longer. The reason?
Christmas isn’t over yet.
I know that the calendar says that Christmas was on December 25th and I know that there are a lot of people who start hauling the Christmas tree to the curb on December 26th, but I’m not one of them.
There are several reasons. First, it suits my natural tendency to procrastinate but second, since it takes me a while to get into the Christmas spirit, I like to leave our decorations up and enjoy them while I can. Third, it’s the way things were always done in our house when I grew up. You see, not everyone celebrates Christmas in December. Sure our church did, and in fact all of the churches in the Protestant and Catholic traditions do, but that isn’t everybody in our big Christian family. Many of us forget that those Christians who are connected to the Eastern Orthodox tradition (Serbian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc.) celebrate Christmas, not in December but closer to the time that the rest of us celebrate Epiphany. The Eastern churches follow the old Gregorian calendar for their holidays and not the newer Julian calendar that was adopted by most of us in the early 20th century. As a result, Christmas falls not on December 25th but on January 7th.
So why do I, a Methodist, a profoundly Protestant guy, observe a tradition of a church to which I have no apparent connection? Because our family is still connected. When I was growing up our family lived in East Akron on Brittain Road. On one side our neighbors were the Gryvnak’s and on the other, the Sasenicki’s (I can’t find them in the phone book, but this is our family’s best guess at spelling forty years later). Both families were Russian Orthodox and while we would go next door and sing Christmas carols in December, they would come to our house and sing carols in January. As a token of friendship and neighborliness, our family began to leave our decorations up until holiday celebrations were over for all of us. While these folks haven’t been my neighbors in the last eleven dorms, apartments and houses I’ve lived in over the last few decades, the tradition (or habit) of leaving our decorations up has persisted. I guess for me it has become a way to remember my childhood but also a way to remember that as followers of Jesus, we are not all that there is.
As brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, our family is bigger than just the name on the front of the church.
Leaving our decorations up a little longer is a simple way for us to remember that we're all connected and it’s also a way to be good neighbors to our brothers and sisters who do things a little differently than the rest of us.