The secular lead up to Christmas drags on seemingly forever, starting with post-Halloween holiday displays and progressing through Black Friday and Cyber Monday, before finally ending with last-minute shopping errands at overcrowded stores and malls.
The actual celebration of the feast is pretty brief for a lot of folks, amounting to a few hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself. Then it’s time to think about taking down the Christmas tree and putting the decorations back in their boxes.
After all, Christmas is over on Dec. 26, right?
The church celebrates Christmas as an entire season, not just one day. In addition to Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, individuals and families can celebrate a number of special days within the Christmas season, which runs until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this year on Jan. 9.
Here’s a rundown of the days and suggestions for how to celebrate them:
Dec. 26: The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Ask your pastor or another priest to pray a blessing over your family. Participate in an activity as a family today.
Dec. 27: Feast of St. John, apostle, evangelist.
John is the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” He was a prolific writer, composing three letters, the Gospel according to John and the Book of Revelation. Write a letter to a friend or family member telling them how they have made a positive difference in your life. Offer it as another Christmas gift.
Dec. 28: Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs.
Read the story about how King Herod ordered the killing of all the boys in Bethlehem 2 years old and under in Matthew 2:13-18. Discuss the importance of protecting human life, including lives of the unborn. Pray for an end to abortion. Consider donating or volunteering time at a pro-life pregnancy center.
Jan. 1: Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God.
Go to Mass, even though this year the feast is not a holy day of obligation. Honor your own mother with a special meal or gift today. Pray the rosary.
Jan. 2: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
Read the story of the Magi from Matthew 2:1-12 in front of your Nativity scene. This is the traditional day for the blessing of homes, which typically incorporates above the main doorway the inscription of the initials of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar) between the current year: 20+C+M+B+11.
Today, the church in Minnesota also celebrates Immigration Sunday, a time to pray and learn more about newcomers to our state. To find out more about the commemoration, visit the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s Immigration Sunday website.
Jan. 9: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Ask your parents to tell you what they remember from the day you were baptized.
Don’t let the secular observance of the holidays short-circuit your celebration. Have a Merry Christmas … season!