Christmas

Next to the yearly celebrations of the Paschal Mystery, the Church considers nothing more important than the memorial of Christ's birth and early manifestations. This is the purpose of the season of Christmas.

The season of Christmas runs from Evening Prayer I of Christmas until the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January, inclusive.

 

The Mass of the vigil of Christmas is used in the evening of 24 December, either before or after Evening Prayer I. On Christmas itself, following an ancient tradition of Rome, three Masses may be celebrated: namely, the Mass at Midnight, the Mass at Dawn, and the Mass during the Day.

Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n. 32-34

 The Christmas season is a time for giving thanks for the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas celebrates the Incarnation, God becoming human, like us in all things except sin.

The Octave of Christmas begins on Christmas Day and extends until the solemnity of Mary Mother of God on 1 January. There are some major feasts during the octave:

  • 26 December is the feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr;
  • 27 December is the feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist;
  • 28 December is the feast of the Holy Innocents;
  • Sunday within the octave is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary,and Joseph.  This is celebrated on 30 December if there is no Sunday in the octave.

The season of Christmas extends from the vigil on Christmas Eve to the Monday after the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. In New Zealand the Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday closest to 6 January, and the Baptism of the Lord on the Sunday after the Epiphany.

The Epiphany commemorates the visit of the three wise men to Jesus, and symbolises his recognition by all nations and peoples as foretold in the scriptures. It is the end point of the traditional 'Twelve Days of Christmas'.

The liturgical colour of the Christmas season is white, which symbolises light and the joyfulness of the season.