Celebrating Christmas

Christmas is our celebration of the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God – God’s incarnation in the world. He is our Emmanuel, ‘God with us’ and during the Season of Christmas we celebrate the early manifestations, or ‘showings’ of Christ from his birth to the beginning of his public ministry. Because of the importance of Christmas, the Church extends the celebration of this great solemnity to cover a period of eight days. This period is known as an octave, from the Latin octavus, meaning eighth. The practice of celebrating over an eight-day period seems to have been derived from ancient Judaism, where the Hebrew people observed many of their feasts (such as the Feast of Tabernacles and the Dedication of the Temple) over a period of eight days. Within Christianity, the number eight came also to refer to the Resurrection, which in the early Church was referred to as the ‘eighth day’. The ‘eighth day’ also refers to the ‘new creation’ following the second coming of Christ.

The Octave of Christmas begins with Christmas day and includes the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Martyr (Dec 26th), the Feast of St John, the evangelist (Dec 27th), the Feast of the Holy Innocents (Dec 28th), the Feast of the Holy Family (Sunday following Christmas) and concludes on the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, January 1st, which also honours the holy Name of Jesus. The Season of Christmas continues after the octave to include the Feast of the Epiphany and a celebration of the Lord’s Baptism. Christmas thus begins with the celebration the Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve and ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (this coming year to be celebrated on January 10th). This means that the season lasts for three whole weeks!

In this fast-paced world of ours, what a gift to be able to stay with Christ, to revel in the joy and grace that is God coming among us, as one of us! Merry Christmas! 


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