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The Christmas season celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation and the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world: past, present and future.
The mystery and feast of Christmas (the Nativity of the Lord) is second only to Easter in the liturgical life of the Church. The first week of the season is the octave of Christmas which closes on the feast of the Mother of God (Jan 1). Some cultures preserve the traditions of “Twelve Days” for the celebration, extending Christmas Day through Epiphany.
ASPECTS OF THE SEASON
Christmas is a season of feasts. Some are celebrations of various aspects of the mystery of the Nativity, while others are feasts in their own right that are as old as or older than the Christmas feast itself. Unlike the days immediately after Easter (the octave or eight days), the period after Christmas sees the inclusion of many and varied celebrations.
These feasts reflect on various facets of the Christmas event.
- Holy Innocents: reflecting Matthew 2.13-18, December 28th.
- Holy Family: on the Sunday after Christmas or December 30th. The newest of the seasonal feasts, included in the calendar in 1921.
- Solemnity of Mary: January 1st has supported a varied number of titles including the civil New Year. It has commemorated the Circumcision (and Naming) of Jesus and been simply the “Octave Day” of Christmas. The celebration of Mary brings the day to the earliest of her titles and the oldest feast in honour of the Mother of God. Holy Name of Jesus:
- January 3rd Epiphany: a feast from the Eastern Churches and the original Eastern celebration of Christ’s birth. It now commemorates the “manifestation” of Christ to the nations and is kept on January 6th or the Sunday after January 1st. The liturgical texts centre on the magi, but include as well references to Jesus’ baptism and his first miracle at Cana as images of his appearance to the world, event that are celebrated specifically later on.
- Baptism of the Lord: Jesus begins his saving work; the Sunday (or Monday) after Epiphany.
Canada’s two Holydays of Obligation (December 25th and January 1st) are observed during the Christmas season.Text: Celebrating the Season of Christmas, National Liturgy Office, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.