Friday, December 30, 2011

And So This Is Christmas

People are starting to go back to work after the Christmas celebrations.  I believe in the US and other places the Christmas decorations came down on St Stephen's Day (Boxing Day) - what a shame.  Here in Ireland we leave the festive decorations up until the 6th January - traditionally we celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, and the Epiphany is an important feast within those twelve days.  In Ireland Epiphany was known as Oiche Nollaig na mBan (Women's Christmas).

As Catholics it is important for us to celebrate the entire feast of Christmas, from Midnight Mass to the feast of the Baptism of the Lord which brings the Christmas season to an end.  The secular world, devoid of faith and understanding, marks Christmas Day, and then New Year's day as a civil celebration, with the commercial build up and parties that is the sum total of its festivities.  We, however, are only getting into the swing of things when the seculars have dumped the trees into the trash.  Our festivities should be guided by our liturgical calendar, and let's face, the calendar is a real party animal when it comes to the great feasts - seasons and octaves - great stuff!!  These wonderful days of the Octave are the party days, and even after the Octave, we must still keep festivity.  At the end of the day our celebration should be longer and richer!

So now we have the Carol Services, the parties (I had mine on St John's Day) and the feasting.  It is still Christmas, as Stephen Greydanus reminded us a couple of days ago. We keep the crib in place, keep the trees up and the decorations, and, as far as we can, we keep a festive table - no fasting (but no greed either).   And yes, we continue to wish each other a "Happy Christmas" - I notice after Christmas Day people wish each other "Happy New Year" as if Christmas was over.  

Those who criticise our faith tend to regard us as a joyless lot - miserable Catholics.  To be honest, we can be miserable at times, but misery is not Catholic - festivity is - this is what Chesterton reminds us.  St Teresa of Avila tells us that there is a time for fasting and a time for partridge, by which she means feasting.  We must fast well, but also feast well.  So now, we feast. 


  1. Right on Christmas does not end until after the Epiphany. I have to remind my American Cousins every year of this !!

  2. The Epiphany is on the 6th January, so it's extra to the 12 days of Christmas, isn't it? (The 13th day, as it were.)

  3. The Epiphany is also known as Twelfth Night, so it is the twelfth day of the Christmas season, so I presume we have Christmas Day, and then it is followed by the twelve days of Christmas, to Epiphany, which is followed by a varying number of days until the Baptism of the Lord which brings the Christmas season to an end.