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Celebrate Christmas like a Catholic: How to observe the 14 days of Christmastide

May the joy of Christmas never end!

Certainly, the biggest celebration many of us normally have is the Christmas Eve dinner. And on Christmas Day, many of us might awaken a bit sleepless to go to Mass — unless we went the night before, since we can’t forget to go to Mass on Christmas — and arrive home ready for leftovers.

But unlike the rest of society, which is tired of the Christmas songs at this point, for us Catholics, the Christmas celebration is only just beginning. Some people say Catholics are party-poopers and don’t know how to celebrate, but the reality is that we are the ones who know — or should know — how best to celebrate!

Why is that the case? Because in addition to preparing ourselves for four weeks for the occasion and celebrating on Dec. 24 and 25, the Christmas season continues for another two weeks.

When does Christmastide end?

This year, the Christmas season doesn’t end until Jan. 7, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. That’s 14 days of celebration! Among them all, the first eight (December 25 to January 1) are the most special; we call them the Christmas Octave.

Most Catholics are only accustomed to celebrating one or two days, though. Many of us don’t know we ought to celebrate for all 14 days! The Church invites us to celebrate more, but since many of us don’t know how to, we act as if there were nothing to celebrate after all. Talk about being a party-pooper!

Leisure: The Way to Celebrate for 14 Days

So how can we really celebrate for so many days? In addition to leaving your Christmas lights and decorations up to let passersby know that the Christmas season hasn’t ended yet, the practice of leisure (otium in Latin) is also key.

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In English, “leisure” is used most often to describe inactivity or laziness, but in Latin, otium has a much deeper meaning. The word refers to activities that we enjoy or that are good in themselves, in contrast to activities that we do in order to derive some benefit, like with work.

We invite you to more intentionally practice leisure this Christmastide. Some good examples of leisure activities that can draw us deeper into the Christmas season include:

• Prayer
• Playing or learning to play an instrument
• Playing sports
• Creating art
• Reading
• Writing
• Baking
• Learning something new
• Traveling or hiking with family
• Spending time with family or friends

Center Everything in Christ

It’s quite possible that this type of “celebration” is not what we’re used to, but it is something that allows us joyfully to “en-joy” our lives and all that God has given us, to rest and to refocus ourselves on all that truly matters and to unite ourselves to God.

The Jewish people celebrate the Sabbath, a day of rest dedicated to the Lord, but this rest does not mean inactivity. Rather, it is to be a day of prayer and praise. We, too, are called to celebrate the Day of the Lord and other holy days, like the Christmas Octave and Christmastide, in a unique and distinct way, centered in Christ.

Be Intentional

So, during this Christmas season, be intentional about the activities you want to do.

Break out that instrument you’ve always wanted to learn; draw; read a book that you really enjoy; go hiking in the mountains or walking in the park; organize a family activity; bake something; build something.

No matter what you do, though, be sure to pray each day. Visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Encounter him in all that you do during this season. Celebrating in this way is refreshing, joyful and can also bring us closer to Christ. Don’t let this time pass you by.

Merry Christmas!

Vladimir Mauricio-Perez
Vladimir Mauricio-Perez
Vladimir is the editor of El Pueblo Católico and a contributing writer for Denver Catholic.
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