If you, like good king Wenceslaus, looked out on the Feast of Stephen—that’s Dec. 26, for the record—you might think Christmas is over. On the Christmas Day evening news, local TV stations are already posting Christmas tree pick-up sites and times. Some trees hang around for a week to give a festive atmosphere to New Year’s Eve and Day, then come down. On Jan. 2, Valentine’s Day candy is in the stores.
That fits with the world’s Christmas season, but the Church has something a little different going on. December is largely taken up with Advent. The idea is preparation, but not in buying presents and food. It’s about a preparation of repentance for celebrating the coming of God in the flesh, Jesus, who will die to save us from our sins.
In other words Christmas is more than just one day. It’s celebration begins before December 25 and continues in the days that follow.
The Church’s celebration of Christmas does not begin with December and end on Christmas, with New Year’s Day tacked on the end. In the Western Church, it begins on Christmas and continues until Epiphany. That day—Jan. 6—is when we celebrate the arrival of the Magi to worship Jesus. By tradition, these twelve days from Christmas through Epiphany comprise the Twelve Days of Christmas.
So how should the Twelve Days of Christmas be celebrated?
That means that from Christmas Day onward, all the fun and festivities are just beginning! You have twelve more days to celebrate, so leave those decorations up, right on up through Twelfth Night (Jan. 5–6). Also, check with your pastor. Many churches have a special service each day of the Twelve Days of Christmas to commemorate Christ’s Incarnation—His coming to earth in the flesh—for your salvation.
Simply put, the appearance or manifestation of God is just too big to contain in one day! That’s why the Church doesn’t. Instead, it extends the celebration of God’s coming among us to twelve days, starting at Christmas. Don’t let the world, the mall, or any calendar tell you any differently!
Check out the source to find out about the Feast of Stephen and Wenceslaus.
- How do the Russian Orthodox Church celebrate Christmas (wiki.answers.com)