CHRISTMASTIME

For most, Christmas is over by December 26 and life has resumed its normal activities. The Church, on the other hand, observes an Octave of Christmas until January 1 (after the Jewish practice of an 8 day celebration) and an extended Christmastime until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. (It is now celebrated on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8.) The popular Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," is rooted in the festive celebration of Christmastime and a celebration of the Catholic faith, from a time in England and Ireland when Catholics had to disguise their Catholic beliefs.

During Christmastime, there are feasts of three martyrs: St. Stephen on December 26, who represents those who went to their death willingly; St. John the Evangelist on December 27 who represents those who were willing to die but were not put to death, and the Holy Innocents on December 28, representing those who were put to death without their choice, recalling the events surrounding the Birth of Christ.
On the Sunday between Christmas and January 1, the Church celebrates the Holy Family. This feast is especially important today as many families today face struggles and challenges in living their Faith.

Epiphany
Epiphany is normally celebrated on January 6, although it can be celebrated on the Sunday between January 2 and 8, as is done in the United States and many other countries. It may also combine the celebration of all three epiphanies ("showing forths") of Christ Ė His epiphany to the Magi at His birth, His epiphany to St. John at His baptism in the Jordan and His epiphany to the disciples and the opening of His public ministry by the miracle of Cana.
However, its primary significance is the closing of the Christmas season with the celebration of the visit of the Magi to the manger (Matthew 2:1-12). The Messiah is thus shown to have come to all people, not just the Jews. The three kings represent the three major races:
 Melchior, an old white man with a long white beard, bearing the gift of gold for Christís royalty; 
Caspar, young and of darker hue, carrying incenses for Christís divinity; and 
Balthasar, a black man, offering myrrh for Christís suffering and death. 
The names of the wise men are not given in the Bible, but were supplied by later story tellers to enrich the meaning and celebration of the Epiphany.

Blessing of Homes
A tradition associated with Epiphany is the blessing of homes with holy water and incense. Using blessed chalk, a parent or priest can mark the inside of the main door of the house with the initials of the Magi and a code of the current year connected with crosses: 20+C+M+B+02. Another explanation of the initials (C-M-B) are the fist letters of the blessing: Christus mansionem benedicat (Latin, "May Christ bless the house").
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