A Christmas Resource List

For Catholics, Christmas is more than just a day on the calendar. It’s a whole celebratory season! Christmas begins on the evening of December 24 with the Vigil of Christmas. Christmas Day is on December 25 and is celebrated with an octave of feast days running through January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Formerly this feast was known as the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, which would have taken place eight days after Jesus’ birth. It would also have been the day Jesus was officially named, so this octave feast is also associated with the Holy Name of Jesus.

You may have heard of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” This refers to the twelve days between December 25 and January 6, the traditional date of Epiphany. This feast celebrates the adoration of Christ by the magi from the east. Today, in many parts of the world, this feast is celebrated on the Sunday after the octave of Christmas — the Sunday within the octave is celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family. The Christmas season officially ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is observed on the Sunday after Epiphany.

Since we have a whole season to celebrate, I wanted to share with you a few articles, videos and podcasts that delve into some of the Catholic traditions around this time of year.

The Holiday Season

The word “holiday” comes from “holy day,” and the holiday season is so-called because of all the holy days included within it. I mentioned the big ones above (Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord), but there are actually many other holy days within this season. I give a brief outline of them in this post on our campus ministry blog.

I also tie together the great themes of Christmas, the Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord in this homily on the feast of Epiphany.

Pagan Traditions?

People will sometimes make the claim than many of our holiday traditions are of pagan origin; things like Christmas trees, decorating with holly and mistletoe, and even the date of Christmas itself. There is very little historical evidence for any of these claims. I address some of the more common ones in this post from my personal blog.

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akins does a much better job than me addressing these claims on this episode of the Catholic Answers Focus podcast.

Ryan DellaCrosse, Ryan Scheel, and Fr. Rich Pagano of the Catholic Talk Show do a great job (and have a great time) looking at the true origins of many of our rich Christmas traditions in this episode of their podcast.

When was Jesus born?

We celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25. But do we actually know that he was born on that day? Why is Christmas on this particular day of the year? I look at this question in this blog post.

Again, Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin does a much more thorough job than I do in this episode of his podcast, Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World (audio only).

Epiphany and the Magi

If you like the way Jimmy Akin explores these mysteries of our faith, you might also enjoy his episode on “the Mysteries of the Magi.” Very little is recorded in the scriptures about the wise men from the east who came to adore the child Jesus. So what do we know about them? (Again, this is audio only).

Finally, while we are on the subject of the Epiphany, many people throughout history have wondered what the star might have been that the magi followed. In the documentary, “The Star of Bethlehem,” Rick Larson uses the tools of modern astronomy to take a look at what was happening in the skies at the time of Jesus’ birth. (Disclaimer: Larson is a Protestant Christian, but the way he incorporates scientific knowledge with faith knowledge in this presentation is very much in keeping with the Catholic tradition).