Most Christians believe that once they get to Christmas day that they have finished the Christmas race. It’s Jesus’ birthday and as of December 26th Christmas is over. As Catholics we know that Christmas Day is simply the beginning of the Christmas season. Up to now we have been celebrating Advent- the preparation for Christ’s birth. Christmas starts on Jesus’ birthday! Once we come to Christ’s birthday celebration we know that there are indeed many more days left to celebrate!
For some families Christmas extends to the Epiphany- the day where the Wise Men came to pay homage and worship the newborn Savior. In other traditions Christmas is celebrated until the Feast of Christ’s baptism. Whichever tradition your family holds, know that there are many ways you can celebrate in the coming days even though all the stores are ready to put Christmas aside.
What a great joy we have to be able to celebrate our Savior’s birth for more than just a day! Here are a few ideas to help extend your celebration and to foster the Christmas spirit in your home and lives (especially if you are already feeling tired from the secular push over the last month!):
- Keep your tree and decorations up! No need to take them down right away. We are still celebrating! Take advantage of the clearance sales at the stores to buy a new decoration to remind you of the real reason for the season.
- Do kind deeds for others. Each day of the Christmas season find someone whom you can bless with kindness. It can be a small act like paying for someone’s coffee or a bigger one like giving food, drink, clothes, or shelter to the homeless. Regardless of what you do, do it with great love!
- Create new Christmas traditions. One of the great Christmas traditions I love is to set up the nativity scene but have the Three Wise Men travel from “a far” each day until the Epiphany when they will finally “find” the Christ Child. This is a fun activity especially if you have younger children who will love to see how far the Wise Men have traveled and how far they have left to go. Find a new tradition that works well for your family.
- Celebrate the St. Stephen- the first martyr (the second day of Christmas), St. John- Christ’s beloved disciple (the third day of Christmas), and the Feast of the Holy Innocents (the fourth day of Christmas). Likewise there are other feasts on each day of Christmas including the Feast of the Holy Family. Discover those feasts with your family and not only talk about them but find a way to incorporate them into your family’s celebrations.
- Craft with your kids. Make new ornaments or find some sort of Christmas craft to do together. During the secular Christmas season we may find ourselves very rushed and overwhelmed. One of the really awesome aspects of continuing our Christmas celebration is that we have more time to simply be together and not rush so much. Take some time to play together, to craft together, to do something as a family.
- Bake something. There is something so satisfying about baking something that you can enjoy with your family. Make a little extra and give it as gifts to neighbors, friends, or family. I don’t know very many people who don’t appreciate home baked gifts! Additionally, after all the rush of the last month, a home baked item is sure to bring a little bit of peace and comfort to just about everyone.
- Go to Mass and Adoration. Take time to spend with Christ in the Eucharist. Thank Him for all the gifts He has given you. The ones that were wrapped under the tree are just a tiny portion of the gifts He has given us. We need to make sure we properly thank Him for every gift He so lovingly bestows on us.
- Rest. The secular aspect of getting ready for Christmas, plus all the celebrating we do prior to the actual Christmas season, can really wear us down. After parties for work, shopping for our kids, and cooking in great quantities, sometimes we don’t want to continue the celebration past Christmas day. Take it easy and rest for a while. Simply enjoy being with your family and contemplate the birth of our tiny Savior and the implications this has for our lives. Rest easy and simply be.
It is easy to get sucked into the secular aspects of Christmas and to be relieved once Christmas day has come and gone; but Christmas is not about the decorations, the presents, or the parties. It is about the gift of love and this gift of love is worth celebrating!
God loved us so much that He wished to restore our broken union with Him. To do so He literally became man. He humbled himself and took on our nature. But He didn’t come with fanfare or trumpets resounding; instead, He came to us as a tiny infant. Lowly, small, and helpless, He was dependent on His mother for all His needs. He came to us vulnerable and meek. It was through this humble beginning that He presented us with the gift of life, love, and salvation.
As we celebrate His birth I pray we will remember how great this gift is. It is not a present that lies under the tree waiting for us to unwrap it and toss it aside. It is a gift that we must continue to open each and every day knowing that contained inside is the greatest gift we will ever receive.
Merry Christmas! May the Newborn King fill your hearts with love, joy, and peace.