This past Lord's Day was the first Sunday of Advent according to the church calendar. Despite that, in many Christian communities, the holiday season really only begins when the month of November ends. Thus, today would be the actual beginning of the "Little Pascha" that announces the new Gospel year.
This wonderful holiday season--what we Moderns generically just call Christmastime--is historically a long sequence of holy days, festal revelries, and liturgical rites stretching from these waning moments of November until the first week or so of January. Collectively all these varied celebrations are known as "Yuletide." Beginning with Advent, a time of preparation and repentance, proceeding to Christmas, a time of celebration and generosity, and concluding with Epiphany, a time of remembrance and thanksgiving, Yuletide traditions enable us to see out the old year with faith and love while ushering in the new year with hope and joy. It is a season fraught with meaning and significance.
Unfortunately, it is also such a busy season that its meaning and significance can all too easily be obscured either by well-intended materialistic pursuits--frenzied shopping trips to the mall to find just the right Christmas gift--or by the less benign demands, desires, wants, and needs which are little more than grist for human greed. The traditions of Yuletide were intended to guard us against such things--and thus, are actually more relevant today than ever before.