Although many seem to think that Christmas ends on December 25, we who are steeped in Roman tradition know that such important celebrations cannot be confined to a single day. In pre-Christian Roman culture, important feasts were celebrated for 8 days, beginning and ending on the same day of the week. This was known by the Latin term “octave,” a custom borrowed by the Church as more and more Roman citizens were being led to Christianity. In the Church’s calendar, there are 2 yearly octaves: Christmas (December 25-January 1) and Easter (Easter Sunday-2nd Sunday of Easter).
The seasons of Christmas and Easter, however, encompass the octave and many days following. The Christmas season extends from Christmas Eve to the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, usually about 3 weeks, and includes the Feasts of theHoly Family, Mary Mother of God, and Epiphany.
Within the Christmas season are the proverbial “12 Days of Christmas,” which commence during the octave on December 26 and last until January 6, the traditional Feast of the Epiphany (or “3 Kings”). According to the familiar song by that same name, a different gift is given to a loved one on each “day of Christmas.” While we don’t honor this custom, it should make us feel better to offer a gift to a loved one we don’t see on Christmas Eve or Day on any one of these days without feeling we are late, because it is still Christmas!
But as we ponder the season, here’s some food for thought. Instead of the symbolic gifts in the song, which were all Catholic code words in the days when the church was persecuted in England, or any other gift we might purchase, how about: “On the first day of Christmas I gave to those I love: my undivided attention. On the second: my enthusiasm. On the third: my creative energy. The fourth: simplicity. The fifth: tenderness. The sixth: cheerfulness. The seventh: a warm smile. The eighth: real interpersonal communication. The ninth: truth. The tenth: wonder. The eleventh: peace. The twelfth: joy. These are gifts anyone and everyone could really use!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Let’s go Eagles, Flyers and Sixers!
In His Love,