Monday, January 02, 2006

When to Strike?

Before I begin, a sidenote.

I was getting ready for the Annual Family Holiday Wrap-Up Bash today -- which makes, since Christmas Eve, seven get-togethers with more than 50 blood-related people in the room -- and flipping channels on the satellite radio when Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" came on.

Usually, it's the kind of song that makes me wince, as it screams "CLERICALISM" loud and clear like a jackhammer into my brain... as if it ever went away. But I've come to chuckle on hearing it lately after stories circulated from an episcopal ordination in the not-too-distant past. On that day, I'm told, the possibility of the euphoric principal consecrator belting the tacky song out to his beloved son-made-bishop presented itself at any given moment, and the local clergy were bracing themselves to duck, vomit, pass out, something.

Suffice it to say, if I were there and anything approaching that happened, I would have died laughing and wouldn't still be here to write for you, so let's all be grateful -- even though that would've been possibly the most insurmountably amusing ecclesiastical moment of all time. What a piss.

That said, I have digressed, your patience is appreciated, and it's time to get to business.

As the New Year has passed, it's time to ask the immortal question: When do you take down your Christmas decorations? Many people out there have already darkened the lights and thrown the tree out but, of course, we know better.

The Octave is over, but not the Season. It's not yet Epiphany. So, when?

It's funny, coming from where I do. You ask the old Italian yentas when they take theirs down and the answer is all the same "The Epiphany, January 6th."

Amazing how, 30 years since the recognitio of the transferral of Epiphany to the Sunday between the 2nd and the 8th in the US and a handful of other places, our people still don't have a damn clue about it, something which flies in the face of the reason given for the change: their enhanced participation.

Sensus fidelium, or just plain wool-over-the-eyes? Whatever the case, that it hasn't translated on ground level doesn't make the liturgical renewal look good at all. (We can talk who's to blame at another time.)

But enough about the rest, what about you? When do Catholics toss the tree? Epiphany? Baptism? Is the end of the Octave sufficient? Comments are open on this one -- but please, please, just answer the question. Don't tell me you love me, don't tell me you hate Liturgiam OW`tent-EE-kahm. Just answer the question.

All thanks and knock yourselves out.



Blogger Fungulo said...

Rocco, if you've been in Rome at this time of year, you'll know that the 'Presepio' or manger scene (the word 'creche' really does not do these monstrosities justice) stays intact and operating (often with moving parts, flowing water, angel with collection plate etc) until AT LEAST February 2, which was (considered) the end of Chriatmastide in the 'Old Calendar' - and, as we all know, this is just one of the examples of Rome making the laws and the rest of us keeping them ...

Allow me to permit myself a slight digression - if ever any of your readers are in Rome at this time of year, one of the ABSIOLUTE MUSTS is the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia where, among the life-size statues of Mary, Joseph, shepherds etc etc etc, you will find a similarly life-sized statue of the deceased Polish madwoman Faustina Kowalski (this church being the center of the Polish nationalistic 'Divine Mercy' movement in Rome).

I could not find any evidence in Scripture, or even in Kowalski's demented writings, to say that she was actually present at Bethlehem all those years ago, so I can only put her presence in this presepio down to her (or those who have made her legacy their own) wanting her to be able to interfere in the Octave of Christmas as much as she has in the Octave of Easter.

3/1/06 08:35  
Blogger RightJack said...

Up through Epiphany, down before the Baptism. Just answering the question!

3/1/06 09:28  
Blogger Paul Goings said...

The tree comes down after the Octave of the Epiphany (or during if it looks especially dry and ragged).

The crib comes down after the Purification on Feb. 2nd.

3/1/06 09:33  
Blogger Fungulo said...

Memo to P.Goings:

Didn't Thomas Cranmer do away with ashes, candles 'The Purification' and all that popery?

3/1/06 10:05  
Blogger Fred said...

The tree comes down as soon as the 17-year-old and his mother can get to it (I think the weekend after Christmas day). The Creche will remain up until Epiphany (whichever Epiphany is later). The lights will remain on through Epiphany, but will come down when it gets warm.

3/1/06 11:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually take down my tree and any greenery around Epiphany (6 January, I mean), and I leave the Nativity set up until 2 February.

3/1/06 11:20  
Blogger Fr Martin Fox said...

After Epiphany.

I hadn't been tuned in to the February 2 thing, so I'll keep that in mind for the creche...

3/1/06 11:54  
Blogger Dcn Scott Dodge said...

Our Christmas decorations come down on Epiphany. As a convert I relish Christmas and all liturgical seasons. Christmas conceived of as only one day adds to the much whined about commercialization. Heck, on Epiphany we bless our house, sing carols as we drag our tree out, make the cake with coin, etc.

I really think keeping a liturgical sense of the Christmas lies with the domestic Church.

3/1/06 15:12  
Blogger Paul Goings said...

Memo to P.Goings:

Didn't Thomas Cranmer do away with ashes, candles 'The Purification' and all that popery?

He gave it his best shot, I guess, but the Anglo-Catholics brought it all back with a vengeance!

In any case, even Cranmer kept the Purification.

3/1/06 15:32  
Blogger Barry Manilow said...

Each night from Christmas to Epiphany (and then some), the tree is lighted anew. Maybe that just means a flick of the switch, but let your heart leap up each night at the dazzle. As an old carol runs: "All out of darkness we have light, which makes the angels sing this night!"

The lovely light of your Christmas tree is a fitting atmosphere for retelling family stories, for sharing private hopes and fears, for playing games, and for singing and playing carols and other music of the season.

Eventually there comes the day to bid the tree farewell. The Scandanavians have a grand custom for this task, making it one of the jolliest of the year. They call it Julgransplundring, the great Christmas plundering! It takes place midway between Christmas Day and Candlemas. At a given signal everyone rushes up to the tree and grabs its edible ornaments. All through Christmastime these decorations - candles, cookies, nuts and fruits - had been "forbidden fruit." But on this day it's as if we are being invited to have our fill of Eden's bounty.

Once the tree is denuded of its other ornaments, the custom is to "waltz Christmas outside." This often turns into a free-for-all, with the tree getting thrown out the highest window, then carried back into the house, back upstairs and back out the window: Christmas is too beloved to leave without protest. Of course there's an awful mess, but home gets filled with the tree's fragrance, its final blessing.

If there's any life left in it, the tree can be set up outdoors as a winter bird sanctuary. Birds really do benefit from evergreen roosting sites. Some families strip the branches and turn the trunk into a Lenten cross. Be sure to fill a pretty bowl with some of the needles. That way you can inhale an aromatic reminder of Christmas past for several more days.

It's customary to keep the nativity scene up until February 2, Candlemas (NB again, 40 days from Christmas, again that mystical biblical number 40, with its echoes of the paschal mystery, Lent and Ascension). On Candlemas Eve tuck a few of the first flowers of spring into the straw (even if these have to be coaxed into bloom by you or a florist). On Candlemas Day dismantle the scene. You might put its straw and dried greens in an outdoor barbecue and make a great, brief blaze to bid Christmas farewell.

Some people say that Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season. But that doesn't quite square with long-standing tradition. Epiphany is too jolly a day for such a bittersweet activity as bidding Christmas farewell. (We have Candlemas, February 2, for saying our goodbyes.)

A Danish proverb says that Christmas remains in the home as long as there is hospitality to guests and outgoing kindness to strangers. So let's keep Christmas as long as we can! In the march of seasons, Epiphany can be the grand finale and the even grander beginning to a new year of grace.

On this merriest day of our merry Christmas, the church colors everything in superlatives - even the scriptures. Not one but three gospel stories are told at Epiphany (in the old tradition - continued in the woodcuts of some copies of the Missale Romanum which present a triptych on this day): the visit of the Magi, the Lord's baptism in the River Jordan, and the wedding feast at Cana.

This is the day that stars and clouds, wine and water, rivers and skies - every blessed thing in the universe - cries out the good news: Jesus Christ is Lord!

No wonder the church sings this giddy and deliciously confusing antiphon at Epiphany, one the mixes all three gospel stories:

Today the Bridegroom claims his Bride, the Church,
since Christ has washed away her sins in Jordan's waters;
the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding;
and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, Alleluia!

There's Epiphany for you: a royal wedding! Advent was the courtship, Christmas Day the exchange of vows. Now it's time for dining and dancing and, ah yes, the wedding night. What a day! It's like a wedding and it's like the end of the world!

No matter how you celebrate, Epiphany is open-door hospitality, a time to make your home glitter with the exuberance and mystery of gold, frankincense and myrrh. All of us are kings and queens who have come to adore the Lord. And when we open our door in love to wayfaring strangers and their strange gifts, all of us are members of God's holy family, bound together on this Twelfth Day of Christmas as God's true love.

For the star shines over us, we who have passed through the Jordan of our baptism, we who bear the name of Christ!

Eggnog makes a fine Epiphany beverage. Why? The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River is one of the gospels we tell at this season. This event brings to mind a parallel with Jesus' namesake, the Israelite leader Joshua. Like Joshua, Jesus also leads his people through the Jordan River and into the promised land, "a land flowing with milk and honey." Over the years Christians have celebrated their baptismal entrance into this land by feasting on sweetened dairy products such as eggnog, a deluxe version of milk and honey. Wassail! To your health!

Carnival: Feast before the Fast Between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday comes Carnival, a high-steppin', high calorie antidote to cabin fever. We deserve - no, we need this time to rise from our winter darkness into the light of fantasy, imagination and generous hospitality. Round foods (such as pancakes and donuts) are customary fare as edible wishes for the sun's return. We use up fattening foods before the Lenten fast. That's how Mardi Gras - the "Greasy Tuesday" before Ash Wednesday - got its name.

Kick up your heels at Carnival! The season is synonymous with the samba and reggae, with the polka and waltz. Winter dancing keeps muscles in tone. It's heart-smart and it's healthy for the romantic heart too.

Carnival has gathered to itself a world's worth of folktales. Pinocchio and Petrushka, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and the Pied Piper are tales to be told late into a winter's night. As in many Bible stories, justice and mercy are forerunners of living happily ever after.

To get ready for Lent we can laugh at our sins at a Carnival masquerade party: The overbearing might wear bear masks, the messy wear pig masks. Horns and pitchfork befit the thoroughly incorrigible.

At midnight on Mardi Gras the masks come off, the dancing stops, and Lent begins, a time to see one another as we truly are. "Lent" is an old word meaning "lengthen" because days rapidly grow longer. Even if the snow is still falling fast in your part of the world, during Lent winter passes over into spring.

Peter Mazar, Winter: Celebrating the Season in a Christian Home, Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1996

3/1/06 16:09  
Blogger Anna Maria Gaudenzi said...

If you think a Polish madwoman in a natiivty scene is odd, take a walk over to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where you can see a nativity scene set up all year round (including Lent and Easter) complete with an old cardinal in the scene, kneeling in full choir dress (even in a pre Papa Pacelli reformed cappa). Ahh Rome. A prize for anyone who can identify the cardinal.

3/1/06 20:07  
Blogger David Nowaczewski said...

If your going to be so witty as to call her a madwoman at least have the courtesy to spell her surname correctly.

3/1/06 23:10  
Blogger Fungulo said...

Dear Anna Maria Gaudenzi:

I originally though it might have been John Cardinal 'Not since Newman' Wright, but after deeper reflection, the Cardinal in the Minerva presepio is far too masculine to have been, er, His Late Eminence.

Could it be Adolph Cardinal Klink of eBay fame?

Oh and you neglected to tell us all about the presepio just a block or so further on from the Minerva, in the Church of San Marcello in the Corso, which features the Holy Family, manger and all, appearing before a (functioning) miniature reproduction of the famed Fontana di Trevi!

(Think 'coins' and you'll work out why the Servites, who have that church, thought this one up . . . business is business!!!)

Dear David Nowaczewski:

Thanks for the spelling watch.

Maybe, just maybe, I am correct in my spelling and we are talking about two different Polish madwomen.

Which Polish madwoman are YOU talking about?

(Oh and do be sure to keep an eye out for my punctuation, too!)

4/1/06 07:38  
Blogger Fungulo said...

Dear David Nowaczewski:

If you're going to be so witty as to pick me up on my spelling, at least have the courtesy to spell 'you're' correctly.

4/1/06 07:41  
Blogger Barry Manilow said...


Take it easy on poor David. If you think contractions were a challenge to him, imagine what grade he was in before he learned how to spell HIS last name correctly!

4/1/06 10:02  
Blogger Fungulo said...

Anna Maria Gaudenzi:

Would the cardinal by any chance be Raffaelo Cardinale Merry Christmas del Val and, if so, what's the prize?

7/1/06 07:38  

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