January 1st? In the Epiphany? In Candelaria (do you know what it is)? Maybe the answer surprises you
Everyone knows that Christmas begins on the night of December 24th. From past experiences on the appearance of the streets, one would have to think that it would end – regardless of the date – the Sunday after January 1, the last day before most of the people return to work or school. It is the day when the lights disappear outside the doors, and in which the trees, before happy, are stripped of ornaments and placed near the garbage collectors.
Here is a small survey: When does Christmas end for Catholic Christians?
- December 26
- January 1 or 2
- January 6
- February 2
- All the previous options
- None of them
First, we will eliminate the easy answers: the 5 is out of place, because the 1 is incorrect, since the “Christmas Octave” was instituted at the end of the 4th century, at the time or near the time when the 25th December was set as the date of Christmas. In an Octave (and we had about 18 before), each day is a celebration of the first day of the Eighth (although the readings change). In 1955 all the Octaves were suppressed, except Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. But – here a little clue – the now forgotten Octave of the Epiphany still influences the calendar.
And the 4, the 2 of February? La Candelaria, celebrated forty days after Christmas, was by tradition the official end of the Christmas period, marking the end of the liturgical periods of Christmas and the Epiphany. But this period, although it is still observed in the extraordinary form (of the Latin rite), is no longer a liturgical period in the ordinary rite. (Although for example, in the Vatican, the Christmas decorations are kept until that day, Editor’s note).
This does not mean, however, that it is less important. The celebration of the Purification of Mary is a very ancient Marian feast, which dates back to the 5th century. It is also the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple and the encounter with the prophecies of Simeon and Anna (cf Lk 2, 22-40).
The name “Candelaria” derives from Simeon’s reference to Jesus as the light of the people, and on this day the candles of beeswax are blessed to be used at home and for the blessing of the throat of February 3, feast of San Blas
Pope John Paul II brought attention to another aspect of the meaning of Candelaria: unite the consecration of Jesus to God with the consecration to God of priests and religious. On January 6, 1997, John Paul II announced that the first annual World Day of Consecrated Life would be celebrated on Candlemas Day.
So things get complicated, and history does not offer much help in solving them.
It would seem that there is strong evidence in favor of answer 2, which places the end of Christmas after the completions of January 1, the last day of the Octave of Christmas, which is the solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God .
Since every day of the Christmas Octave is celebrated as Christmas day, it makes sense that Christmas ends with the Eighth. But, although the Christmas party ends that day, the Christmas period continues.
“The twelve days of Christmas” culminate with the Epiphany of the Lord, referring to the adoration of the Magi, which is celebrated on January 6 – option 3 – in the ordinary calendar of the Roman Catholic Church (in which it is observed as day of precept).
If it is not a precept, the Epiphany moves to Sunday between January 2 and 8. The 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar left the feast of the Epiphany as part of the Christmas period. So answer 3 is not correct.
This leaves us the last answer as valid: none of the above.
When, then, does Christmas end?
According to the universal norms of the Liturgical Year and the calendar, the Christmas period goes from the first Vespers of the Lord’s Christmas to the Sunday after the Epiphany, or Sunday after January 6.
The Sunday after the Epiphany is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. For example, this year the Baptism of the Lord, therefore, falls on January 10, which means that in 2016, Christmas ends with the second eve of January 10; the first Mass of ordinary time will be on January 12.
Although the Octave of the Epiphany has been officially eliminated, it is still part of the Christmas period, relegating the ordinary time until the Baptism of the Lord.
Why do not you leave the decorations until next January 10, 2016 or until February 2? The neighbors may shake their heads, but it could be an opportunity to reintroduce them to the meaning of the splendid period of the Epiphany and the Candelaria.