Compliments of the season to all our readers. This may seem like an odd observation in the January issue of this paper, but it is correct. As Fr Richard Ounslow points out in his scripture column, most of the Christmas season falls in January. Properly, Christmas starts and Advent finishes on the night of Christmas Eve. The 12 Days of Christmas come to a wonderful crescendo on the night before the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, and the feast day that follows, when we celebrate both the coming of the Three Kings and the Baptism of Christ. And then we are left with a mild decrescendo of the Christmas season until the Purification of the Virgin at Candlemas on 2 February. January, then, is very much part of Christmas, still a time for feasting and good cheer.
As Nick Groom points out in another article in this issue on this subject, it was the Victorians who brought the Christmas season to an abrupt end in order to ensure that an orderly workforce returned to productive employment as soon as possible after the celebrations. The season was truncated to the 12 Days and they in turn were truncated to the triduum of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s or Boxing Day, with a brief revival of the festive spirit for New Year’s Eve.
We are not as a culture particularly inclined to religious puritanism but we are in danger of reverting to a Cromwellian abolition of Christmas, at least Christmas proper. In our day, January has become Dry January, or Veganuary, a time of fast and abstinence. The most scandalous and unchristian aspect of this is that the fasting starts on New Year’s Day, when resolutions translate into diets, right in the middle of the 12 Days of Christmas. This is irreligious as well as psychologically misguided. Who actually wants to give up food and drink during the bleakest month of the year? The proper time for fasting is Lent.
If January is not seen, as it should be, as a festive season, it’s a bitter month. Catholics, then, have a religious duty to keep up the party spirit right through the month of January, celebrating the birth of Christ until Candlemas. Happy Christmas!
This article first appeared in the January 2022 issue of the Catholic Herald. Subscribe today.
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund