The greatest feasts, like Christmas and Easter, have liturgical seasons dedicated to them. Christmas is preceded by the Season of Advent, a time of preparation, and the celebration of the Nativity itself is extended in the Christmas Season. This season begins on Christmas Eve, as Catholics rejoice in the Lord’s Birth on December 25th, and extends to the Baptism of the Lord, on the Sunday after the Epiphany.
Beginning on Christmas Day, eight days are dedicated to an Octave of Christmas, after the Jewish pattern for the greatest feasts. During this octave the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated, and it culminates in the honoring of Mary as the Mother of God on January 1st. This title was first given to her by the early Councils, as a defense of her Son’s divinity against those who argued He was not God, or not eternally so.
The cost of salvation and discipleship is never out of sight, however, during the Octave. The Church recalls the Holy Innocents, killed by Herod in a frantic search for the Messiah, and the proto-martyr Stephen, killed as Saul, later St. Paul, encouraged it.
Finally, the Christmas Season concludes by looking forward to the Public Life and Ministry of Jesus, with the Solemnity of the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. These events, which mark “manifestations” of Christ’s divinity, serve as bookends to His hidden life from infancy to the inauguration of His public ministry.