Why Do Catholics Keep Celebrating after Christmas?
The birth of Christ is celebrated on December 25th. Christmas Mass is the feast of the incarnation, the feast of God becoming flesh – of choosing to become one of us. This is a celebration second only to Easter. Easter has Lent as time of preparation, and is followed by the fifty days of Eastertide leading up to Pentecost. Analogously, Advent is the time of waiting for Christmas, and after the feast, there are the weeks of Christmastide. In these weeks, we first celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday after Christmas (Dec 31 2017), and the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, on New Year’s Day. On the Solemnity of the Epiphany (Jan 7 2018) we remember the visit of the Magi:
"According to tradition, the wise men were sages, watchers of the constellations, observers of the heavens in a cultural and religious context which saw the stars as having significance and power over human affairs. The wise men represent men and women who seek God in the world's religions and philosophies. The Holy Spirit prompted them to follow the star, kept them strong when their quest proved difficult and filled them with the grace they needed to have a personal encounter with the true God.” – Pope Francis
Christmastide ends with the feast of the Baptism (Jan 8 2018), when God’s voice identifies Jesus as His beloved son as he goes down into the Jordan in order to be baptized by John the Baptist.
Forty days after Christmas, Catholics celebrate “Candlemas”, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Feb 2 2018). This feast commemorates the day when Mary and Joseph, according to the laws of the Old Testament, brought Jesus to the temple for the rites of purification and dedication 40 days after His birth. Saint John Paul II revived the custom of keeping the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s square until February 2nd. At St George’s, we keep the Christmas trees in the church up until that day.