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Q U I C K S C A N

What holy days of obligation fall during the Advent and Christmas seasons?
What are the other feast days and holy days during the Christmas season?
Which other saints are celebrated during this time?
Was St. Nicholas real?
When are the 12 days of Christmas?
What is “Little Christmas”?
What are the names of the three kings?
   


What holy days of obligation fall during the Advent and Christmas seasons?

In the United States, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, is a holy day of obligation. Mary is the patroness of the U.S. under this title. The others are Christmas Day, December 25, and Mary, Mother of God, January 1. In years when January 1 falls on either Saturday (as it did in 2005) or Monday the obligation is lifted.

What are the other feast days and holy days during the Christmas season?

In addition to Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Christmas and Mary, Mother of God, Catholics celebrate:

  • The Feast of the Holy Family, honoring Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a family. It is celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas or on December 30. When Christmas falls on Sunday, it is celebrated December 31.
  • The Epiphany, the oldest of the Christmas feasts, is also known as Three Kings Day for the three magi who found the Christ Child after following a star to Bethlehem. It is celebrated on Jan. 6 and is the major holiday of the Christmas period in the Eastern Church.
  • The Baptism of Our Lord brings the Christmas season to a close. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Epiphany.

Which other saints are celebrated during this time?

The best-known saints remembered during this time are: St. Francis Xavier (December 3); St. Nicholas (December 6); Blessed Juan Diego (December 9); Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12); St. Lucy (December 13); St. John of the Cross (December 14); St. Stephen (December 26); St. John the Evangelist (December 27); the Holy Innocents (December 28); St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (January 4).

Was St. Nicholas real?

St. Nicholas of Myra lived and acquired his reputation for sanctity long before the Church began its formal process of beatification. He became recognized as a saint by a kind of popular acceptance.

Historians and hagiographers generally write that much of what is said about Nicholas is legend. Again, remember that at Nicholas's time there were no investigation and authentication of claimed miracles before canonization took place. Attributing miracles and wonders to a person was an ancient way of expressing people's conviction about the holiness of the person.

You will still find Nicholas listed in the various dictionaries of saints, for example, Dictionary of Saints, by John Delaney (Doubleday). And you will still find Nicholas listed in the Roman Calendar on December 6. There he is assigned an optional memorial. In other words, churches and communities on that day may choose to celebrate either the liturgy in honor of St. Nicholas or the liturgy for a weekday in Advent.

When are the 12 days of Christmas?

The 12 days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day (December 25) and end on January 5, eve of the traditional date of the Epiphany.

What is “Little Christmas”?

In the Spanish-speaking world, Christmas Day is strictly religious, and gifts are exchanged on the feast of the Epiphany, when the wise men (or Magi) brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.

What are the names of the three kings?

Tradition names them Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The custom of blessing homes on Epiphany developed because the feast commemorates the time that the three kings visited the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Traditionally after the blessing, the initials of their names were written in chalk on the back of the door. They were enclosed by the year and connected by a cross in this way: 20+G+M+B+02.

 

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