by Clyde Ericson Nolasco
Christmas is the most fancied holiday of all. But after all the glittery parties and merriment reunions, when does Christmas really end? Is it on December 26 midnight? Or is it when you have already finished repeatedly reheating the dishes from Christmas day and New Year’s day? All the more, when is the appropriate time to take down the Christmas tree and other ornaments?
When does Christmas End? | Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels
ADVENT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Philippine pop culture tells us that Christmas in the country commences as the “ber” months begin. On September 1, you would already hear Jose Mari Chan singing Christmas in our Hearts in malls, groceries, department stores, etc. He is ubiquitous. As early as this month, different key cities would have ceremonies of lighting their Christmas trees and launching their Christmas light shows.
However, Christmas does not even start until the 25th of December. We actually need to get through Advent first. From the beginning of Advent until December 16, we happily anticipate the coming Messiah; while on the 17th until the 24th, the last eight days before Christmas, we recall how Jesus became man through the Gospel reading for these days. After all these preparations then we can only proceed to Christmas.
On December 25, we celebrate the incarnation of the God-Son Jesus, our Savior. The solemn celebration is prolonged through the Christmas octave, an eight-day celebration of the feast. Within the octave, we celebrate the feasts of St. Stephen the Protomartyr, St. John the Evangelist, the Holy Innocents and the Holy Family that continues the joy of Christmas and manifests the impact of the incarnated God to His people.
After the Christmas octave, the season continues as we celebrate two great manifestations of Jesus.
Within this period, or 12 days after Christmas, we celebrate the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus to the Magi. We remember the appearance of Jesus to the magi, the wise men from the east (to be more accurate, they are not kings but magi). The magi represented us during the first Christmas. They represented those who are not from Israel, that Jesus’ incarnation is for all and not just for the Israelites.
The Sunday after Epiphany is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We recall how Jesus went down to the River Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John. This is Our Lord’s second epiphany, He manifested as the beloved Son of the Father filled with the Holy Spirit.
This brings Christmas to an end.
EXTENSION OF CHRISTMAS
After the Christmas season, on Monday after the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we enter into the first of the two-time period of Ordinary Time. This stretches until Ash Wednesday, the start of the Season of Lent. At this point, we are not focusing on the major events in the life of Jesus, i.e., His birth, passion, death and resurrection. We grow through Jesus’ stories of teaching, healing and making miracles. That’s why the season's color is green as it speaks of growth, life and hope.
In the Church’s history, the Ordinary Time was just established after Vatican II. Before the reform of the Liturgy, the Sundays outside of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter were called Sundays after Epiphany and Sundays after Pentecost.
But in terms of the scale of celebration and depth of meaning, the weeks of the Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Year serve as an extension of Christmas.
In the Philippines, just right after the consistently well-attended Simbang Gabi, millions, literally millions, of devotees would flock to Quiapo Church for the Nazareno. The Nazareno or the Black Nazarene is an image of Jesus carrying His cross, which originated from Mexico brought to the Philippines in the 1600s. On January 9, a sea of faceless souls would endure the struggle and pain of participating in the annual Traslacion, a procession reenacting the transfer of the Black Nazarene from Intramuros to Quiapo Church. Barefooted and donned with their maroon shirts, the devotees would try their best to touch the statue or just even the rope of the karosa that carries the miraculous icon.
Traslacion 2020 | Photos from dacebook.com/QuiapoChurch
While on the third Sunday of January, Filipinos celebrate the feast of the Sto. Niño or the Holy Child Jesus. The image of the Child Jesus represents the birth of Christianity in our country. In 1521, images of the Child Jesus were given by Ferdinand Magellan and his companions to the first Christians of Cebu. These days, the Sto. Niño can be found in most Pinoy homes and even establishments that the Bishops’ Conference designated a special feast which is proper to the Philippines. The feast would take place through colorful festivals participated and celebrated by many such as the Sinulog (Cebu), Dinagyang (Iloilo), Ati-atihan (Aklan), Buling-buling (Pandacan, Manila), Kahimunan (Butuan City) and a lot more.
Sto. Niño Festivals | Photos by Herbert Kikoy
In the liturgy, every February 2, we have the feast of the “Candlemass.” The feast includes the blessing of the candles and the procession of lights. The mass for the day remembers the Presentation of the Lord and the Purification of Mary. Jesus being consecrated to God and would be the light of the world as mentioned by the Prophet Simeon in his canticle is the message of the feast.
The feast days of St Joseph the Husband of Mary (March 19) and the Annunciation to Mary (March 25) may also be within the Ordinary Time but not during this liturgical year as we would celebrate the Ash Wednesday on February 17 and the two would fall within Lent.
The celebrations above, along with their significance to the faithful and their importance in our spiritual lives, give us the idea that the Ordinary Time is an extraordinary season.
When I mentioned to my class that Christmas ends on Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord, my student Topie exclaimed: “But Christmas can be everyday if we continue to give!” I certainly agree. Giving must not stop because the season ends.
The Baptism of the Lord may be the signal to take down the Christmas ornaments but it is just the beginning of another colorful chapter in our liturgical life and a continuation of our journey to and with Jesus.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
- The Work of Christmas by Howard Thurman