The Christmas Season Goes Past Christmas

by blackspanielgallery

How long past Christmas do you celebrate Christmas? The answer may depend on where you are in the world.

The Christmas season goes past Christmas and really ends with the feast of the Epiphany. This occurs on January 6. The day is celebrated as the day the three wise men arrived to visit Jesus, bringing gifts with them.

It is unlikely a visit could have occurred in just under two weeks. Organization of a trip in the days before telephone would have meant sending word physically. And the caravan would have traveled slowly, once organized. A couple of years would be a better estimate of the time needed. Yet a twelve-day celebration is acceptable, for a two-year celebration would overlap other Christmas Days.

January 6 ends Christmas time for many, albeit not all. In some cultures, the twelve days of Christmas are a time for continued gift-giving. As an example, consider the Christmas booths that sell items for giving in Rome. They will stay until the last gifts have been bought.

Churches Decorate for Christmas

Our parish church, and many others in the area, do not put out Christmas decorations in advance.  The churches are first seen decorated for Christmas at the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve.  The only exception is a tree with paper ornaments which are to help parishioners give to the needy.  One week the paper ornaments give an age range, size, and gender of the recipient, so gifts can be purchased.  The next week the ornaments are food items to help feed the needy.  The third week are prayers and readings.  Then there is a thank you message when the gifts are left.


Other than the singular exception the decorations are not placed out because it would be Advent, a solemn time of preparation.


The other point here is the churches keep the decorations up until after the Epiphany  passes.


A past pastor for our parish often lamented seeing Christmas trees curbside as early as December 26, yet he had little success in changing the culture.


Rick Steves European Christmas

Secular Christmas Time

Christmas ornaments and advertising once started at Thanksgiving.  Now seeing these in stores starts before Halloween.  And people do decorate weeks before Christmas.


Of course, there are two reasons to extend the season by starting early.  The first is the merchants are seeking more profits.  The second is anticipation.  Whether it is a child, or an adult looking forward as a child would do, anticipation is itself rewarding. 

Some Celebrate Christmas on January 7

One thing we often do not notice is that much of the Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7.  Why?  The Orthodox Church left the Roman Catholic Church prior to 1582.  In those days we used the Julian calendar.  There was a minor flaw with the calendar created by Julius Caesar, so a correction was made in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.  So, the Orthodox still follow the Julian calendar when fixing a date for Christmas.


A few years ago, I was at a party on January 6, and another guest was dressed in Christmas garb.  He explained he was on his was to a Christmas Eve celebration at an Orthodox church.  I knew Easter was not always the same for most Christians and the Christians of the Orthodox Church, but this was an enlightenment that Christmas was celebrated so much later.



Keeping Christmas decorations out past Christmas, giving gifts, and even having Christmas parties are all appropriate.  And do not be surprised if an Orthodox church has a Christmas celebration in January.


More Articles You Might Be Interested in Reading

There is a true meaning of Christmas that we need to remember, but it does not mean we have to forgo all other aspects of celebrating.
We are often told to remember the true meaning of Christmas. What can we do to help keep Christmas closer to its true meaning?
Candles are popular at Christmas, and with the wide variety available they can be used in a multitude of decorative ways.
Updated: 11/26/2019, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 11/27/2019

First, southern Louisiana has a large Catholic population, but not northern Louisiana. The cake is called a King Cake here, and a doll is hidden in it. We associate this tradition with Mardi Gras, a holiday with Catholic roots, so it is a tradition of southern Louisiana. The Epiphany is the transition from Christmas time into Mardi Gras time, and considered the first of the Mardi Gras season. The hidden doll represents Jesus, and the tradition is the person who finds the doll hosts the next party, which can continue until Mardi Gras Day when the last parties will be completed. I have an article of this at wizzley, I did not go into this because we associate the cake with Mardi Gras, a different holiday.

DerdriuMarriner on 11/27/2019

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for the photos, practicalities and products.
Does Louisiana conserve the French traditions of faire une galette de rois, trouver la fève, tirer le roi ou bien la reine about the hidden surprise within the Epiphany cake in January?

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