, Corbin, KY

December 30, 2013

A new year and the Octave of Christmas

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — Even in the obscure hill-country of my youth, from my earliest memory, New Year’s Eve along with the day, was observed and celebrated.

Staying up until midnight or for some just setting the alarm for midnight, was the tradition.

My grandfather having worked all day as a farmer faithfully went to bed with the chickens (and always up at 4 a.m.) and therefore he was one of the midnight alarm-setters.

He would be up just long enough to put on his heavy coat, load his double barrel shot gun, step into the back yard to pull the trigger at 12, harmonizing and resounding over the hillsides with all his neighboring farmers.

His first five minutes of the new year saw him reengaging in what was doing at the end of the previous year  — buried under layers of blankets in an unheated, un-insulated farm-house bedroom — sleeping.

Being very traditional Christians, New Year’s Day always coincided with the Octave of Christmas — a day to go to church and worship.

Christmas was (and for most Christians still is) recognized as such a wondrous day of blessing to the world, that it was never to be celebrated for just one day only (the 25th), but for that day along with the entire week following; hence the Octave — the eight days of Christmas, also known as Christmas Tide.

Back in those days (and still today for many) there was no celebrating or decorating before Christmas. The pre-Christmas days (a four week period of spiritual preparing called Advent) were (and are) to examine one’s life to see if God’s Son, Our Savior, had actually been accepted in our lives; was the Gospel message of love, kindness, forgiveness and service being practiced.

Living in a pleasure-seeking, party-prone society, we have succumbed to the temptation of skipping this spiritual four weeks of Advent, transposing it to weeks of materialistic pre-Christmas purchasing, packaging, decorating and feasting.

With such a full month of observing Christmas before Christmas, many of us are found to be weary and fed up with all the whole holiday.

On the 26th, Christmas trees with all their accompanied accruements are often seen trashed at the curb as good riddance.

With such a focus on ourselves and not the arrival of the Son of God as the Savior of the world, we miss the whole show — very much like going to the movie blind-folded.

May it never be too late for us to take off the blindfold. Happy New Year — with or without a shot gun.

The Rev. John Burkhart  Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of  psychology blog at inspirationsandideas