Saturday, January 29, 2011
It's National Hot Tea Month!
And there, of course, is the rub. It turns out that when you Google "National Hot Tea Month" all of the websites that come up are to companies who sell tea. I'm sure you all saw that coming, as I did...
But it makes me think about how we mark time. I've long been aware of, and annoyed by, "Hallmark Holidays" that are more about selling greeting cards than marking time. And every year I go a little crazy when I hear about "the twenty-five days of Christmas" - namely December 1 to December 25. My family is tired of hearing me yell back at the television: "That's called Advent! There are TWELVE days of Christmas and they BEGIN on December 25!"
My New Year's Resolution this year was to live more fully into becoming an old curmudgeon. So far, so good. And truth be told, I have nothing against tea. I am a coffee drinker married to a tea drinker and we have made it work for almost twenty-five years, and every now and again I do enjoy a cup of afternoon tea, which just feels more soothing at that time of the day than coffee.
Now here is the really weird thing, though. It's been years since I've made a habit of having a cup of afternoon tea but last week, BEFORE I noticed that it was "national hot tea month" I actually had a cup of tea in the afternoon. Twice in one week! Now did I "see" the advertisement- but not register it consciously? Was my desire for tea a "subliminal" one? Or is this all just a strange coincidence?
We are surrounded by messages that tell us "what time it is" but that really mean to sell us stuff. Some of it is bad for us, some of it is neutral, and some of it may even be good for us. As far as I'm concerned, a hot cup of tea might even fall into the last category. But how do we become more aware of what is "real" and what is slick advertising that tells us what is real? National Hot Tea Month? Are you kidding me?
How can we learn to more faithfully "mark time" not by ad campaigns masquerading as "national holidays" but by the rhythms of the liturgical year? This is not, of course, an either/or proposition. But as a Christian, my life is oriented around two great mysteries; a holy birth, and a holy death. Each of those seasons is preceded by a time of preparation and followed by a time for reflection and action. These two great cycles: Advent/Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter/Pentecost are meant to mark, and shape, the lives of Christian people.
Now let me be clear; I see absolutely nothing wrong with a cup of tea to sit and ponder the Mystery of the Incarnation. In fact, I have two or three more days to do just that. But I need to do it fast, before National Chocolate Lovers Month begins!