Dec. 25 Marks the Beginning, Not the End, of the Christmas Season

Fritz von Uhde (1848–1911), "Christmas Night"
Fritz von Uhde (1848–1911), "Christmas Night" (photo: Register Files)

It will begin very soon.

We’ll start to see Christmas trees on the curbsides or propped up against the back sheds. It usually starts the day after Christmas, with the number of discarded trees increasing until New Year’s Day when it starts to taper off.

In the malls and on the city streets, the decorations are coming down, too. The After-Christmas sales are booming and the Return lines wind round and round the stores as folks come to exchange their unwanted Christmas presents.

For many, the Christmas season ends on December 26.

For faithful Catholics, the Christmas season begins at midnight on December 24 and continues well into January. While the rest of the world is winding down their Christmas celebrations, we’re just gearing up for ours.

I feel so sad for those who miss out on the feasts and festivities that come after Christmas. They all have such deep meaning and are so rich with tradition that I wouldn’t miss them for anything in the world. I look forward to every one of them and try to do something for home and family to make those days special.

We start with Christmas Octave.

Since the eighth century, the Church has observed octaves – eight days of celebration following a feast or solemnity. Christmas has its own octave, and so does Easter. For Christmas, the octave begins on Christmas Day and ends on January 1, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

Both during and after the Octave of Christmas, there are number of feasts to commemorate and celebrate.

  • December 26 – St. Stephen (the first martyr)
  • December 27 – The Holy Family
  • December 28 – Holy Innocents (children murdered by Herod’s soldiers in the effort to destroy the Christ Child)
  • January 1 – Holy Mary, Mother of God
  • January 3 – The Epiphany of the Lord (visit of the Magi)
  • January 10 – The Baptism of the Lord

Throughout those days, we hear in the daily readings the stories of the Nativity, but also of the prophecies of Simeon and Anna at the presentation and the finding of Jesus in the temple as well as the initiation of St. John the Baptist’s ministry.

The Christmas season is filled with exciting scenes and happenings, all pointing to Jesus as the Christ. They all tell us about the magnificence and mission of the Infant born in Bethlehem that one day would be King.

That’s the whole point of Christmas, isn’t it?

The reason we have Christmas at all is because we are grateful and filled with joy that the God-Man has come to earth to bring salvation to all of mankind.

He is the Christ. That’s worth celebrating for a good long time.

According to the to the Church, the Christmas season officially ends with the Baptism of the Lord, observed this year on January 10. That gives us 17 days to celebrate Christmas, and all of them begin and not end on Christmas Day.

I love that.

Every year our family becomes the counter-cultural ones on our street. We keep our decorations up and keep on celebrating throughout the entire Christmas season. I remember a few years that we kept our Christmas tree up until February 2 – the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on the Roman calendar. We still laugh about the year our Christmas tree just couldn’t hang in there. One or two days after Christmas as the kids were outside playing, they spotted a Christmas tree on the curbside that still was in great shape. So, they lugged it home and we put it up. Why let it go to waste?

I could say the same for the Christmas season. Why let it go to waste?