All of the grandkids last Christmas.
For Catholics, the season leading up to Christmas Day is Advent, preparing to receive Jesus - in celebration of his actual birth, in our hearts today, and when he returns. The Christmas season (the 12 days of Christmas) starts on Christmas Day and lasts until Epiphany, January 6 (some consider it to last until the baptism of Jesus, which is the Sunday after Epiphany).
Catholic Culture has a special 12 Days of Christmas section for families, where each day there is a prayer and activity.
Find out what each symbol in the song The 12 Days of Christmas (which was created when Christianity had to be celebrated in secrecy) means at Catholic Mom.
Christmas holy days:
December 26: St Stephen
December 27: St John the Evangelist
December 28: the Holy Innocents
Sunday after Christmas: Feast of the Holy Family
January 4: St Elizabeth Ann Seton
January 6: Epiphany, aka Kings Day
Sunday after Epiphany: Baptism of our Lord
Celebrate the Feast of Epiphany:
Flickr/ Jim Forest
There is a custom on Epiphany, of blessing the home on that day, since the kings visited the home of the holy family. Traditionally, after the home blessings, the following is written in chalk on the back door:
It is the year split on the ends to enclose the three initials of the kings, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.
We are a New Orleans family and so I will enjoy taking you through the beginning months of the year with us, as we celebrate with traditional customs of Catholic (and non-Catholic, because everyone joins in!) New Orleans.
We call Epiphany Kings' Day and celebrate with a party where we share "king cake". It is a sweet cinnamon bread, formed in a ring (for the never-ending God) and frosted in Mardi Gras colors of purple (for justice), green (for faith), and gold (for power). We hide a plastic baby Jesus in the cake and the person who "finds" the baby has to buy or make the next king cake. This continues each weekend for Carnival season, which lasts from Kings Day to "Fat Tuesday", the day before Ash Wednesday.
Carnival season comes from France, and started as eating (the last eggs, milk, cheese, sweets, and meat in the house), drinking, and being merry before the 40 days of Lent begins. It made its way to New Orleans with Iberville and now includes fancy balls, fun parades, and of course king cake parties.
Xhonane at Familia Catolica has a Christmas link-up to encourage families to celebrate the entire Christmas season (through Epiphany) rather than just on Christmas Day. Check out her wonderful site full of ideas (it has a translator if you don't speak Spanish), and check out the link-up for more websites with ideas for continuing the celebration!