It’s a complaint, nay, a lament I often hear: “The whole year builds up to Christmas and we spend so much time getting ready for it and it’s over in a day. It’s kind of a let-down.” This is true. I used to feel the same way. One day of frenzied, candy-and-nog fuelled joy, and then down comes the Christmas tree on December 26, with nothing to look forward to but starting the year off with a new gym membership and a hangover that feels like you were on the business end of St. Nicholas’ vicious right hook. Ugh. Depressing. This, you may have guessed, is not how the Church in Her infinite wisdom would have us celebrate Christ’s birth. The good news is, Christmas for Catholics and anyone else following the liturgical calendar lasts right on up until the commemoration of the Lord’s baptism in early January, and stays with us spiritually in the liturgical cycle til Candlemas in February. So pour yourself a glass of nog, curl up in your favorite ugly sweater, and read on about how to keep the spirit of Christmas alive long after Valentine’s Day candy starts popping up in stores.
1. Keep that tree up!
If you have a Christmas tree, consider putting it up later (say, Gaudete Sunday), and don’t take it down till Epiphany, or the celebration of Jesus’ baptism when the liturgical season officially ends. Some staunch traditionalists don’t decorate the tree til Christmas Eve, and don’t even light it til midnight. If anyone asks why it’s still up in January, use it as an opportunity to evangelize. Or just tell them you feel it really ties the room together.
2. Get your feast on!
I’m not just talking about Christmas dinner. Go all out, to the best of your ability, all 12 days. Break out the good china and the top-shelf bourbon. Invest in a good bottle of champagne, keep your favorite Christmas foods in supply and invite friends and family over to share. Sing your favorite Christmas hymns and songs around the table. Make toasts to the newborn King. Make merry, for Christ is born!
3. Follow the daily readings!
A good practice to get into any time, but especially during the (actual) Christmas season, it will help focus your heart and mind on Christ’s birth while ads and store displays are hellbent on dragging you into Valentine’s Day before most Christmas trees are dry and dead.
4. Go to daily Mass!
Again, a good habit to get into any season of the year, but if you’ll look at the liturgical calendar, there’s an important saint day or remembrance almost every day until Epiphany. Going to Mass on these days is the perfect way to celebrate! Also, by this point, you probably need to purge your in-laws and all that extra butter consumption from your soul.
5. Get joyful!
Pray the Joyful Mysteries as a family. Better yet, get ahold of a Franciscan Crown rosary and contemplate the Seven Joys of Mary. Do special little things for friends and family during the season without telling them, just because. Pay attention to the small, but important joys of this season, and praise God for his gifts.
6. Christmas movie marathon!
48 hours just isn’t enough time to cram in all your favorite Christmas movies, am I right? Spread them out over the next 12 days. Invite friends and family over, enjoy some of that leftover Christmas candy and pop some popcorn. Stick with the classics, or branch out, and discuss the themes of fulfillment, redemption, and wonder in each movie with your fellow audience over some hot buttered rum afterward.
These are just a few ways to keep the spirit of Christ’s birth alive for the full 12 days of the feast, and beyond. Our world needs the good news of Christ’s Incarnation in the flesh now more than ever, and it’s up to us as Catholics to be bearers of that good news by our actions and how the joy of the Gospel shows in our lives. In a world that marches relentlessly—joylessly—forward, dare to slow down, savor this season, and invite others to do so with you.