“On the first day of Christmas, my truelove gave to me…” This Christmas Carol is so well known that most everybody is familiar with it. But most people don’t realize is that this corresponds to the Catholic Church and our liturgical calendar. Yes, between Christmas and the Feast of the Nativity is twelve days, but of those twelve days, eight days are celebrated in the Catholic Church in a special way. This time period is called the Christmas Octave.
Just as the name implies, the Christmas Octave is eight days including and following Christmas Day; December 25-January 1. December 25th is Christmas and December 26th, December 27, etc., are just as much Christmas as the 25th. We celebrate Jesus, his birth, and the fact that he came to save us and to die for our sins and to redeem us and bring us to heaven.
Why Eight Days?
You may be wondering why eight days, versus any other number of days. Actually, we celebrate Christmas and Easter for eight days, and our reasons for each are Biblical. This corresponds to the Old Testament where the Jews used to celebrate big feasts by God’s command for seven days, and they would have the solemnity (the celebration with the biggest importance or amount of ceremony) on the eighth day of the feast.
Keep It Going!
While we celebrate our own birthdays for one day, who better to celebrate for eight days than the Lord and Savior? He is so beautiful, wonderful, and resplendent that we don’t just celebrate Him on one small day. He is worthy of great things, and that includes great celebrations! Secularly, people think Christmas is one day and when that day is done, they throw away their tree the next day. There it sits on the curb, such a sad and lonely sight of a celebratory symbol right amid a time of much celebration! The reality is the Church and her members celebrate Christmas and the meaning of Christmas – that Christ was born for us, lived, died and resurrected for us- for eight straight days. Now, that’s how to celebrate!
Ways to Celebrate
Our God is a God of joy, so we invite you to fully harness the glory of the season and to celebrate all eight days as well! Here are some suggestions for how to do that:
- Keep that Christmas music going (and don’t listen to secular music as much either)
- if you can and you have the opportunity to so, try to go to mass more than just on Sunday throughout that Octave as a way to give praise and thanks to Jesus.
- Pray to Him more
- Pick up a Bible and read some of the Gospels, especially the birth stories of Jesus, as a way to just to think of Jesus and reflect on it Him more.
- Go get ice cream or your favorite treat! Let every big, beautiful bite of that luscious cake, ice cream, or whatever your favorite is remind you of the sweetness and the beauty of Heaven, and of what Jesus has obtained for you by His becoming man for our sake, by dying for our sins and obtaining salvation.
Celebrate-truly and joyfully celebrate! That’s what the Octave is about. Celebrate not in a secular right only, but in a spiritual way. Draw closer to Jesus, praising Him more, thanking Him more rejoicing in Him more, following Him more and praying to Him more over the full eight days of Christmas! In giving Him this beautiful gift, you are bound to discover the even greater beauty He wants to return to you!