(Not that it is yet the Sixth of January, but because today is the liturgical celebration of Epiphany.)
Christmas has not ended!
A few years back, ten years to be precise, I was reading about cultures that do their Christmas gift exchange on Epiphany, not Christmas Day. At the same time, our then-parish priest made the suggestion to split up the Christmas gifts between Christmas and Epiphany, as one way to drive home to children the fact that Christmas does not end on the 25th of December. We've been doing that, ever since.
It does underscore the full 12 Days of Christmas for children, to have the days bracketed with attending Mass, receiving gifts, and having a special dinner. In between, we make sure to keep the days relaxed and carefree, as befitting a holiday break. We continue with Christmas movies, books, and music. We keep the tree up and lights lit.
So much do we keep the air of the holidays, my children feel a bit sorry for those who experience a post-December-25th let-down. We don't have that depressing sensation, because we know the celebrations have only begun. As well, the Christmas festivities gently peter out so that there isn't an abrupt stop as there is for a holiday of "Christmas is only the 25th" or the whole misunderstanding that the 12 Days are somehow the days preceding the 25th.
Interestingly enough, Christmas needn't end with Epiphany. The traditional end is on Candlemas, which is February 2nd. Candlemas is a term I think I've come across more in British literature than I've ever come across in Church teaching. Perhaps that's just my American perspective, though. Almost thirty years ago, when I was on a student exchange trip in France, the local municipalities had their Christmas decorations still hanging in mid-February. In fact, the family that hosted me had a small fire on their tree because it was rather dried out by that date.
My need for order and visual simplicity will not allow me to keep the decorations up until Candlemas. That doesn't stop me from finding other ways to keep the season until the end.
For further reading:Books:
Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home
This is an online book at the EWTN website.
A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations by Joanna Bogle
I do own this book. It has disappeared from its proper place on the bookshelf. Amazon promises that is discusses Candlemas. St. Anthony, can you help me?
When Is Christmas Over?
This was published just the other day.
Candlemas is a fitting end to the traditional Christmas season
Published a few years ago.