Now that Christmas Day has passed, the presents have been opened, and the feast has been prepared (and eaten!), it's time to take down the Christmas tree, pack up the decorations, and start dreaming about next Christmas, right?
No! Christmas has only just begun. And while most of us may find it hard to sustain our celebration of Christmas all the way through until the traditional end of the season on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (also known as Candlemas), we can easily celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, which end with the Solemnity of the Epiphany, on January 6.
In an important way, Epiphany completes the Christmas feast, because it is the day that we celebrate the fact that Christ came to bring salvation to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. That's why the Old Testament reading for Epiphany is Isaiah 60:1-6, which is a prophecy of Christ's birth and the submission of all nations to Him, and includes a specific prophecy of the Wise Men coming to pay homage to Christ. And the Gospel is Matthew 2:1-12, which is the story of the visit of the Wise Men, who represent the Gentiles.
In some countries, it is customary to give small gifts throughout the twelve days of Christmas. In our family, because we're usually visiting our relatives in another state on Christmas Day, our children open one small gift on each day of Christmas, and then, having returned home, we go to Mass on Epiphany, and open all of our presents that night (after a special dinner).
Of course, we keep the Christmas tree up the whole time, play Christmas music, and continue to wish friends and family a Merry Christmas. It's all a wonderful way to draw the joy of Christmas into the New Year--and to draw our children more fully into the beauties of the Catholic Faith.
(Looking for information on the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas"? You'll find it in What Are the Twelve Days of Christmas.)
More on the Christmas Season:
- Reader Question: When Does the Christmas Season Start?
- What Are the Twelve Days of Christmas?
- The Solemnity of Christmas
- The Second Day of Christmas: Saint Stephen, Protomartyr
- The Third Day of Christmas: Saint John the Evangelist
- The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
- When Should You Take Down Your Christmas Tree?