One of the most powerful resources the Church gives us is the cadence of the liturgical calendar. In her wisdom, the Church acknowledges that there really is a time for everything – a time to reflect and change, a time for remembrance, a time to fast, and a time to feast. We humans are made for routine, and we love to build traditions. Christmas is a wonderful time to lean into the liturgical calendar and really enjoy our time of feasting.
The whole world enjoys getting on board with the season of Advent. It’s such a joy to watch people we know and love who are far from the Church suddenly delight in the warm glow of lights, trees, nostalgia and traditions during Advent. The weary world really does rejoice. But after a month or so, it seems that we get tired of rejoicing. The cookies, grand meals, preparations, and gifts all culminate and end on Christmas day. But in reality, Christmas day is just the beginning of the Christmas season.
There are faithful Catholics on both ends of the when-to-decorate spectrum: some are finished by All Saints Day, others put nothing but an Advent wreath up until Christmas Eve. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, and there’s plenty of room for different traditions according to family or culture. I think it’s important to remember that Advent is a season of penance, so what really matters is devoutly preparing our hearts for Christ to come through confession, frequent reception of the Eucharist, or special Advent prayers and devotions.
But I will say that in contrast to the commercial Christmas season – which has already given way to Valentine’s Day — the Catholic Season of Christmas begins on Christmas Day, and ends on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. So the way we celebrate Christmas should look and feel different than the version of packing everything up on December 26th.
Lean into the feast this year! Here are a few ideas to keep the Christmas season going in your home:
Keep stuffing the stockings – This doesn’t mean getting more gifts, necessarily, but spreading them out over the Octave. Our kids get a small treat or gift (think Target dollar section) in their stocking each day of the Octave of Christmas. It’s so fun to see them get up in the morning and say, “it’s STILL Christmas!”
Leave that tree up – Leave your tree as-is, or take the ornaments off and leave it plain to give it a different feel.
Lean into Christmas music – Reserve your favorite carols until after Christmas day, and then enjoy them around the clock until January 9th!
Prayer – I’m sure you’re familiar with that “what day is it?” feeling over Christmas break — mark your time by praying the Liturgy of the Hours on easy-to-follow apps like iBreviary or Laudate, doing the daily readings with the Hallow App, or attending Mass a few extra times per week.
The world, our families, our friends, and our coworkers need the light of Christ, even after their lights and decorations come down. Let’s keep them up just a little longer this year.