We tackled the first question in Part I of the series. Missed it? Get caught up HERE.
What, exactly, do we mean by the Christmas Season? I know the answer (smile), but before I reveal it, let's discuss why there is even a question. Opinions vary, as they say. To understand the over-arching Christmas Season question a bit more deeply, let's list and define some distinct periods of time that take place within the season:
- Advent: Interpreted on the liturgical calendar as 4 Sundays and weekdays before Christmas Eve. Each of the four weeks are often represented by a colored candle representing Advent themes of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, respectively. These colored candles surround a pure white Christ candle. Messages of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace are discussed and celebrated in successive Sundays of Advent, and the Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve.
- In 2014, the Advent Season was November 30 through December 24, or 25 days, inclusive. Advent can range from 22 to 28 days in length.
- However, if you buy an Advent Calendar, you'll see it usually includes the first 24 days of December, counting down the days to Christmas and, with treats of chocolate, building anticipation for the birth of the Savior.
- Of course, there is the coincidental fact that 24 is also the number of beers in a case of beer. and 24 different winter beers would make a wonderful adult Advent calendar!
- But, I digress...
- Christmas Season:
- According to the liturgical calendar, Christmas Season begins after Advent, i.e., at midnight on Christmas Day, and continues for 3 Sundays and weekdays after. So for 2014, the Christmas Season is Thursday December 25 through Sunday January 11, 2015.
- Some others say the Christmas Season begins with Black Friday sales on the day after Thanksgiving and ends when the last of the wrapping paper is wadded up in the trash,
- This year, for the first time, I saw Christmas decorations up in stores before Hallowe'en. Personally, I find that the crass commercialization of Christmas reflects poorly on our National values, but to each his own. Ayn Rand would say that the commercialization of Christmas reflects perfectly on our crass National values.
- But again, I digress.... Ayn Rand is the subject of a different blog post.
- And can we please recycle the wrapping paper?
- Christmas Octave: 8 days from December 25 to January 1, inclusive. I do not hear this one mentioned much except among musicians. (That was a joke.) Seriously, this is an archaic term, except without it we would never understand the next term...
- Octave of Epiphany: The period of time from Epiphany to the 3rd Sunday after Christmas, inclusive, is a period of about 8 (actually anywhere from 3 to 9) days depending on which day of the week Christmas lands on. The only reason the liturgical Christmas season runs past Epiphany is so that Advent plus Christmas Day plus Christmas Season gets us to 40-ish days (actually 43 days, regardless of which day of the week Christmas lands on. Of course 40-ish days is parallel to the 40-ish days of Lent and the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness.
- Christmastide. Adding to confusion about the meaning and duration of the Christmas Season, we have a new term with even more variation around it. The dictionary compounds confusion with two different definitions of Christmastide
- the festival season from Christmas to after New Year's Day. Note that this is the same period of time that has already been called the Christmas Octave.
- the 14-day period from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, especially in England.
- don't forget the so-called Twelve Days of Christmas which ends on Epiphany and so must begin on December 26
- My birthday falls between Christmas and New Years Day. Growing up, I always felt that my birthday got lost in the seasonal sauce, There is a season of quiet reflection in the week between holidays. I call it Happy New Christmirthday Year.
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By tradition in my household, it is bad form to decorate for Christmas before December 6 or after January 6. I am fine with Advent calendars and of course Advent-themed worship services before December 6th. In fact, I am pretty much fine with the idea of celebrating Christmas and Christian ideals year-round. It's just that Christmas music and some of the decorations and list-making and shopping should begin no earlier than December 6th. This gives space around Thanksgiving, acknowledges the original "St Nick," and includes the celebration of Epiphany which is when the wise men following a celestial compass finally found the Christ child and offered Him gifts, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11).
If I send or receive a Christmas card a few days after Christmas, I don't think it's "late." But a Christmas card before Dec 6 seems in poor form, even if Advent has already begun. The only Christmas cards I got before Dec 6 this year were from businesses and universities hoping to catch me in a giving mood. The timing caused the opposite reaction! And a card sent or received after Jan 6 reflects poorly on the management skills of the sender. For these reasons, I believe the world would be a better place if everyone Christmas year-round, but only decorated between Dec 6 and Jan 6.
- December 26 is the First Day of Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas conclude on Epiphany
- The "Official" Christmas Season begins on Saint Nicholas Day and ends on Epiphany. This 32-day period of time exists inside the 43-day liturgical events of Advent, Christmas Day, and the Christmas Season. But only a Cretin would send a Christmas Card before Dec 6 or after Jan 6!