Keeping Christmas in your heart and mind throughout the full liturgical season is a deliberate act of will
An excellent question. According to the USCCB website, “the liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord,” which this year is celebrated on January 9. It’s a very strange thing walking around wishing people “Merry Christmas” all the way into the second week of January, I know. So what do you until then?
We take a cue from Mary. The Blessed Virgin Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” [Luke 2:19] and so must we. Keeping Christmas while the rest of the world rushes forward in resolutions and on to the next holiday is a deliberate act of will. You can go with the flow of the world and take that pause with the Church. Force yourself to slow down and savor these last remaining days of Christmas.
Practically speaking, the best way to keep a Christmas mindset is to immerse yourself in the daily readings of the Church and reflect on the incarnation narratives of the Gospel or the prophesies of the Old Testament that foretold of His coming. Daily Mass is the perfect place for that, but if your schedule makes hitting Mass impossible, spending time with the daily readings will certainly keep you grounded in the glory of these days. You’ll find that regardless of whether or not the secular world remains decorated, your heart and mind — like the church itself (and hopefully your home) — are still being illuminated and made beautiful with the messages of the season, as in today’s Alleluia:
The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
To those who accepted him
he gave power to become the children of God.
Another way to keep Christmas going, even if your tree is dying and forcing you to pack away the ornaments: keep the Nativity set out through the 9th and continue to listen to Christmas music. Create a Pandora playlist of Christmas music or download some music to your listening device. Spend quiet time in front of your Nativity. Turn off the TV, light a few candles and study this scene of the incarnation. Use your imagination to picture those shepherds, and what they saw, the magi and their learned expectations. Curl up in the quietness with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and just bask in the radiance of your own private Christmas sanctuary, reflecting on Christ being the light of the world, illuminating our bleak, long dark winter nights.
If you have a family, start some traditions with them that don’t begin until December 25th to emphasis the actual days of Christmas. My son and I watch a different Christmas movie each night starting Christmas night, taking turns picking it out. I know it’s a little thing but the idea is to make the effort to recognize that, yes, it’s still Christmas. It’s still okay to read Dickens’ Christmas Carol, too!
But the absolute best way to keep Christmas is to set it apart from Advent. The secular culture jumps straight from Thanksgiving into “Christmas season” but if we deliberately celebrate each as its own distinct season, keeping Christmas following the liturgical calendar starts to feel more natural as opposed to forced.
Give it a try next year. Don’t celebrate Christmas until Christmas time. Refrain from the Christmas music, opting instead to listen to Advent hymns. Read the Divine Office during Advent, where all the psalms and readings are about the anticipation of Christ’s coming. Wait to bring out the Nativity sets until Christmas Eve.
In other words, follow the example of the Church. Enjoy the excitement building up in your heart and in the liturgy. Then when Christmas comes heralding in with lights, song, and decoration I bet you’ll want to hold on to every moment of Christmas you can for the weeks following December 25.
That’s how you keep Christmas in your heart, cherishing each moment and pondering its meaning like Mary.
[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll – How long do you leave the tree up?]