Christmas is the feast of the incarnation, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer, true God and true man. Christmas follows the Advent season and liturgically begins with the vigil Mass of Christmas Eve on December 24th ushering in Christmas Day. Christmas is a time that we welcome Christ’s renewal in our hearts and reflect on the gift of salvation and redemption given to us by the Father.
Christmastide is the name given for the time surrounding Christmas Day and lasts from Christmas Day until the Baptism of our Lord, which is the Sunday that follows the Epiphany and liturgically ends the Christmas season. The time of December 25th to the Epiphany, the twelve days of Christmas, is recognized as a special time of feasting. The octave of Christmas is from December 25th until January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Christmas falls exactly nine months after the Feast of the Annunciation, the feast commemorating Jesus’ conception.
The Christmas tree and the Nativity scene are popular symbols of the season and a tradition in many Christian homes. It is also traditional to exchange Christmas gifts with family and friends as a way to honor God the Father’s gift of his only son to the world. Having received the gift of Christ, we naturally want to pass that gift along to our loved ones.
To further understand the meaning of Christmas, we encourage you to read Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas Eve Midnight Mass homily.