Christmas Tree

A Christmas tree stands in St. Stephen Square, Budapest (Bestravel/video, Shutterstock)

We are a novelty in our neighborhood and perhaps among our friends and acquaintances as well. Long after Christmas, New Year’s Day and Epiphany, our Christmas decorations — both inside and outside — remain up and lighted. We leave them up until the Presentation of the Lord, celebrated Feb. 2 each year. What’s more, we continue to celebrate Christmas and all its related feasts until then.

When we look back on Church history, celebrating Christmas this way isn’t novel at all. Before the Second Vatican Council, the Christmas season lasted for 40 days, echoing the 40 days of Lent. It was customary at the time to extend Christmas until Feb. 2, carefully observing the feasts in between: St. Stephan (Dec. 26), Holy Innocents (Dec. 28), the Holy Family (the Sunday after Christmas), the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1), the Epiphany of the Lord (Jan. 6 or the nearest Sunday), the Baptism of the Lord (Sunday after Epiphany), and, finally, the Presentation of the Lord or Candlemas (Feb. 2). That is seven feast days to celebrate over the course of six weeks!

Read more in my latest blog post for National Catholic Register.


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