The first question was simple: "Siri, when is Christmas?"
After the two-tone "BEED-EEP" chime, the voice of the Apple iPhone responded: "Christmas is on Tuesday, December 25, 2012. I hope I have the day off."
Then matters got complicated: "When is Advent?"
Siri searched her memory and said: "I didn't find any events about 'Ed Fant.'"
Trying again: "When is the Advent season?"
Siri cheerfully responded: "I am not aware of any events about 'advent season.'"
After several more "BEED-EEP" chimes the Apple cloud ultimately drew a blank when asked, "When does the Christmas season end?" Alas, Siri didn't understand the term "Christmas season."
That's understandable, since it's clear that millions of Americans are either confused about these questions or they disagree with answers rooted in centuries of Christian life, noted Jimmy Akin, senior apologist at Catholic Answers (Catholic.com).
The problem isn't just that the secular marketplace celebrates a different season -- "The Holidays" -- which runs from the shopping day previously known as Thanksgiving through Dec. 25, which itself precedes several days in which gifts are returned, leftovers consumed, trees discarded and decorations jammed into garages.
The problem, said Akin, is that many Christian institutions have surrendered and no longer observe the four quiet weeks of Advent (Latin for "toward the coming") and then the 12-day Christmas season, which begins with the Dec. 25 feast and continues through Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. The Advent and Christmas seasons have for centuries been celebrated in many different Christian traditions.
"There is just so much noise out there in the culture this time of year, so many signals clashing with the church's traditions," said Akin. "The key to all this is that our culture treats Christmas Day as the climax of a giant holiday season, not as the day that -- after the preparations of Advent -- kicks off the 12 days of Christmas."