By SIMONE SLYKHOUS
As a child, there was always one day a year when I never needed an alarm clock. I would spring out of bed at the crack of dawn, ready to make sure that my brother and sister were up so we could peek at our stockings before our parents awoke. We had a strict rule about not being allowed to go on the stairs—where the stockings were hung on the bannister—until everyone was up. Once my parents woke up, or, more accurately, once we forced them out of bed so we could start fully enjoying Christmas morning, the festivities began. This day was, of course, Dec. 25.
When my immediate family all resided under one roof, there was no difficulty in gathering everyone together for Christmas. The worst thing that could happen would be someone’s missing the Christmas picture because he or she was in the other room. One hollering later and all was resolved. Unfortunately, growing up has a way of making things harder. With a family scattered across the state, finding time for everyone to get together has become a struggle of juggling work schedules, internships, parties and vacations, not to mention significant others.
The holidays should be a time for gathering to share the joy of the season and remember your love of friends and family. Seasonal price hikes in airfare don’t contribute much to that joy.
To reduce seasonal stress and increase the possibility of availability of all members of the family, more and more people are embracing a new tradition of celebrating Christmas on another date. This tiny tweak negates the need for couples to navigate the tricky road of which parents to visit on Christmas Day.
Lizeth Haber, teacher and mother of three grown children—one recently married—says last year her family started to celebrate on the Saturday before Christmas instead. “I know that my kids will always save that day to visit us, and we don’t have to fight for time the day of,” she says.
Reducing the chance of fighting among in-laws? That sounds like a promising idea. But for those wary of breaking family or local traditions, taking a cue from other cultures might be the answer.
The date of Christmas celebrations varies worldwide. For instance, Armenians observe Christmas on Jan. 6. That is Epiphany, when the three wise men are said to have reached Jesus. According to the St. Andrew Information Network, “historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christ’s birth on Jan. 6 until the fourth century.” The date was then changed to Dec. 25 to undermine the pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the sun on the same date. Differences in the date of festivities can be blamed on the use of either the Gregorian calendar or the Julian calendar. They vary by 13 days. Because of this date discrepancy, Ethiopia, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Macedonia and Moldova all commemorate Christmas on Jan. 7.
In Colombia, Christmas Eve is the most important day of the season. It is the culmination of the Novena, nine successive days of devotion. Gifts are exchanged at midnight, and fireworks shine in the skies of Dec. 24. Because of this celebration, Dec. 25 isn’t of much significance in the country.
Seeing as how Christmas decorations begin cropping up in mid-October these days, honoring the day a little early doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.
Alexandra Singer of the blog “Conscious Moms” also believes in beginning the holiday season early. “I’ve chosen to start earlier with my personal festivities for a lot of reasons,” says Singer. “There is so much to do in such a short period of time that the lead-up to Christmas can start to feel frenzied, chaotic and anything but peaceful.”
You can keep the peace in your own family by thinking about starting a new custom of celebrating Christmas on a day that works best for you.