Benedictus Deus

Benedictum Nomen Sanctum eius

Christmastide Breakdown

Filed under: Christmas,Liturgical Calendar — January 17, 2007 @ 10:04 pm

I think I have the Christmas season layout down now.  So, for anyone else who was confused, here it is.

The Christmas season starts on the evening of Christmas Eve.  The rule of thumb seems to be after the vigil mass is when Christmas season officially starts, but I have also heard after Vespers.  There are no canonical requirements, but Christmas Eve is traditionally a day of fasting and abstinence until the evening.

Then of course, is the twelve days of Christmas, ending on January 5th.  The twelve days are the main celebration time.  It is often ended with a 12th day celebration (featuring a 12th day cake of course!)  We didn’t do that this year, but I think it would  have helped maintain the Christmas feel, and gives you something to look forward to.  In our society it is hard to keep in the Christmas spirit when it is supposed to be kept, so the 12th day party is an extra incentive.  However, the 12th day is not the end of the Christmas season.

January 6th is the feast of the Epiphany.  The Christmas season (a.k.a Christmastide) includes the entire octave of the Epiphany.  So Christmastide ends on  January 14th.  (Note: on the new calendar Epiphany is the Sunday between the 2nd and the 8th, so there can be eight to fourteen days of Christmas.  I won’t comment on it since it wouldn’t be charitable).  It seems reasonable to leave up Christmas decorations until the 14th, or at least some of them.
Even after the octave day of Epiphany it is still spiritually Christmas until the feast of the presentation, Candlemas (Feb 2).  In many traditions, the nativity set is left out unit this time.  You will notice this is forty days since the start of Christmas.  So what does that mean for us?   In addition to the spiritual focus of Time After Epiphany (see post below this one) we should try to remain joyful that the Lord has come, and spiritually focus on the incarnation and the early life of the Holy Family.

The difference in the end of the official Christmas season, and the spiritual Christmas time is due the difference in the temporal and sanctoral cycles.  I hope do a post on that in the near future.

1 Comment

  1. Benedictus Deus » Liturgical Cycles:

    […] is a little more to it than that (like octaves) but that is basically it.  So to clear up the confusion I had last Christmas, Time after Epiphany is still part of the Christmas Cycle, but it is the prolongation, not part of […]

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