Christmas is the annual feast commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, a little over 2000 years ago. For Christians, it is not just a single day (Dec. 25), but an extended liturgical season of joy and celebration, involving many different symbols and traditions, special music and activities, which vary significantly among different countries and cultures. Here are a few interesting things to know about Christmas:
- When and how long is Christmas?
- Christmas Day, liturgically called "The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord" in the Catholic Church, technically includes both Christmas Eve (Dec. 24, after sunset) and Christmas Day (Dec. 25) itself. For religiously observant Christians, however, Christmas is not just one day, but an entire season, lasting anywhere from 12 days to 40 days in different ecclesial traditions.
- In the modern secular world, Dec. 26 already begins the "after-Christmas" sales, and Christmas decorations are often removed before New Year's Day! The "Christmas Season" (for shopping, decorating, parties, music, etc.) used to begin just after Thanksgiving Day (in the United States), but now seems to begin just after Halloween (Oct. 31), if not before! When people hear about the "Twelve Days of Christmas" (or sing the song by that title), they might think it refers to the last 12 shopping days before Christmas.
- In most Christian traditions, however, the "Christmas Season" properly begins with Christmas Eve (after sunset on Dec. 24), while the "Twelve Days of Christmas" refers to the period from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5.
- In different Churches, the Christmas Season might end on Jan. 6 (the traditional date of the Feast of the Epiphany), or might last until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (usually the Sunday after Epiphany), or might even last all the way to Feb. 2 (the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 40 days after Dec. 25).