When exactly does the Christmas season end?
By Fr Kenneth Doyle –
Question: As Catholics, we know that the Christmas season begins on December 25 — but when does it end? Some say it ends on the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, but others say it concludes a week later on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Also, what does Jesus’ baptism have to do with Christmas?
Answer: Many people do take down the Christmas tree and put away their Nativity scenes and other Christmas decorations following the Epiphany, leading to a common assumption that the Christmas season closes with that feast. But liturgically, that’s not correct.
The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
The baptism of Jesus marks a sharp line of demarcation: before the baptism in the River Jordan, he was viewed simply as a carpenter from Nazareth. But with his baptism, Jesus’ public life begins as he proclaims with his words and actions the arrival of the reign of God; with the baptism, the Holy Spirit begins to lead Jesus in a new way.
The second part of the question is a bit more difficult: What does Christ’s baptism have to do with Christmas? Here it’s helpful to consider something Pope Benedict XVI said in a homily on the feast of the baptism in 2013.
He explained that both the nativity of Jesus and his baptism show the Saviour’s solidarity with us, the humble immersion in our human condition that allowed Christ to understand our weakness and frailty. Even though Jesus had no need for baptism as a sign of repentance, he allowed it to happen. In the words of Pope Benedict: “He was moved to compassion, he chose to ‘suffer with’ men and women, to become a penitent with us.”
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