World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000572380
Reproduction Date:

Title: Christmastide  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Christmas, Liturgical year, Epiphany season, Twelve Days of Christmas, Advent
Collection: Christmas-Linked Holidays, Christmastide
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A Nativity scene and a Christmas tree, two popular decorations displayed by Christians during Christmastide

Christmastide (also Christmas Time or the Christmas season), also known as Twelvetide, is a season of the liturgical year in most Christian churches.[1]

For most Christian denominations, such as the United Methodist Church and the Catholic Church, Christmastide begins on Christmas Eve at sunset or First Vespers,[2] which is liturgically the beginning of Christmas Day.[3][4][5][6][7] Most of Christmas Eve, understood as 24 December, is thus part not of Christmastide, but of Advent, the season in the Church Year that precedes Christmastide; in many liturgical calendars, Christmastide is followed by the closely related season of Epiphanytide.[8]

The precise ending of Christmastide is defined differently by different Christian denominations.[9] In the Anglican Church and Lutheran Church, Christmastide, commonly called the Twelve Days of Christmas, lasts 12 days, from 25 December to 5 January, the latter date being named as Twelfth Night.[9][10] For the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, Christmastide is now, since its 1969 revision, a few days longer: "Christmas Time runs from ... up to and including the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January."[7] Before 1955, the 12 Christmastide days in the Roman Rite (25 December to 5 January) were followed by the 8 days of the Octave of Epiphany, 6–13 January, and its 1960 Code of Rubrics defined "Christmastide" as running "from I vespers of Christmas to none (liturgy) of 5th January inclusive".[11]


  • History 1
  • Traditions 2
  • Liturgy 3
    • Western Christianity 3.1
      • Readings 3.1.1
    • Eastern Christianity 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5


Liturgical year

In 567, the Council of Tours "proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season, and established the duty of Advent fasting in preparation for the feast."[12][13][14][15][16][17] Christopher Hill, as well as William J. Federer, states that this was done in order to solve the "administrative problem for the Roman Empire as it tried to coordinate the solar Julian calendar with the lunar calendars of its provinces in the east."[18][19][20] Ronald Hutton adds that, while the Council of Tours declared the 12 days one festal cycle, it confirmed that three of those days were fasting days, dividing the rejoicing days into two blocs.[21] The Council held at Tours also spoke of a three-day fast at the beginning of January as an ancient custom, and ordered monks to observe it.[22]

According to the text of the acts of the 567 Council of Tours, edited by Jean Hardouin, Philippe Labbé, and Gabriel Cossart and published by the Royal Printers in Paris in 1714, the only mention of the period between Christmas and Epiphany made by that council is in its 17th canon.[23] In that canon, which dealt with the fasts to be observed by monks,[24] the council decreed:

De ieiuniis ... In Augusto, quia quotidie missae sanctorum sunt, prandium habeant. ... De Decembri usque ad natale Domini, omni die ieiunent. Et quia inter natale Domini et epiphania omni die festivitates sunt, itemque prandebunt. Excipitur triduum illud, quo ad calcandam gentilium consuetudinem, patres nostri statuerunt privatas in Kalendis Ianuarii fieri litanias. (On fasting ... In August, because each day there are Masses of the saints, let them have a full meal. ... In December until Christmas, they are to fast each day. Since between the Nativity of the Lord and Epiphany there are feasts on each day, they shall have a full meal, except during the three-day period on which our Fathers established private litanies for the beginning of January, in order to tread down the custom of the Gentiles.)

In medieval era Christendom, Christmastide "lasted from the Nativity to the Purification."[25][26] To this day, the "Christian cultures in Western Europe and Latin America extend the season to forty days, ending on the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of Mary on 2 February, a feast also known as Candlemas because of the blessing of candles on this day, inspired by the Song of Simeon, which proclaims Jesus as 'a light for revelation to the nations'."[27] Many Churches refer to the period after the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas and up to Candlemas, as Epiphanytide, also called the Epiphany season.[28][8]


The Moravian star is a common decoration seen in many Christian households and churches, especially those of Moravians, during Christmastide and Epiphanytide

During the Christmas season, various festivities are traditionally enjoyed and buildings are adorned with Christmas decorations, which are often setup during Advent.[29][30] These Christmas decorations include the Nativity Scene, Christmas tree, jingle bells, as well as various Christmas ornaments. In the Western Christian world, the two traditional days on which Christmas decorations are removed are Twelfth Night and Candlemas. Any not removed on the first occasion should be left undisturbed until the second.[31] Leaving the decorations up beyond Candlemas is considered to be inauspicious.[32]

On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the start of Christmastide, it is customary for most households in Christendom to attend a service of worship or Mass, in which they receive Holy Communion.[33][34] During the season of Christmastide, in many Christian households, a gift is given for each of the Twelve Days of Christmastide, while in other Christian households, gifts are only given on Christmas Day and/or Twelfth Night, the first and last days of the festive season, respectively.[35] The practice of giving gifts during Christmastide, according to Christian tradition, is symbolic of the presentation of the gifts by the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus.[36] Indeed the popular book The Gift of the Magi closes by saying "The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication."[37]

In the Anglian city of Oxford, many Christian families, after attending church, celebrate this period through serving a traditional dish called Boar’s head.[38] In several parts of the world, it is common to have a large family feast on Christmas Day, preceded with grace. Desserts such Christmas cake are unique to Christmastide; in India, a version known as Allahabadi cake is popular among the Christian population and consumption of it has spread to other parts of the world.[39] During the Christmas season, it is also very common for Christmas carols to be sung at Christian churches, as well as at the footsteps of houses--in the latter scenario, groups of Christians go from one house to another sing Christmas carols, a form of evangelism.[40] Popular Christmas carols include "Silent Night", "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus", "We Three Kings", "Down in Yon Forest", "Away in a Manger", "I Wonder as I Wander", "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", "There's a Song in the Air", and "Let all mortal flesh keep silence".[41] In the Christmas season, as with Eastertide, it is very common for television stations to air feature films relating to Christmas and Christianity in general, such as The Greatest Story Ever Told and Scrooge.[42]

In Russia, Christmastide, understood as the period between Orthodox Christmas and Epiphany, is often referred to as "Svyatki". During this period, Russians perform fortunetelling by the use of shadows, candles, wax, and boots to predict future marriages. Maidens who participate in the ceremony have to shed everything that “hinders” the flow of spirits including their belts and rings. They also have to let their hair down.


Western Christianity


  • Christmas Midnight Isaiah 9:1-6/Titus 2:11-14/Luke 2:1-14
  • Christmas Day Isaiah 52:7-10/Hebrews 1:1-6/John 1:1-18
  • December 26 Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59/Matthew 10:17-22
  • Feast of the Holy Family (The last Sunday of the calendar year, but 30 December if Christmas falls on Sunday)
    • A. Sirach 3:2-6,12-14/Colossians 3:12-21/Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
    • B. (Genesis 15:1-6,21;1-3)/(Hebrews 11;8,11-12,17-19)/Luke 2:22-40
    • C. (1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28)/(1 John 3:1-2,21-24)/Luke 2:41-52
  • 27 December 1 John 1:1-4/John 20:2-8
  • 28 December 1 John 1:5-2:2/Matthew 2:13-18
  • 29 December 1 John 2:3-11/Luke 2:22-35
  • 30 December 1 John 2:12-17/Luke 2:36-40
  • 31 December 1 John 2:18-21/John 1:1-18
  • 1 January (Holy Mary, Mother of God) Numbers 6:22-27/Galatians 4:4-7/Luke 2;16-21
  • 2 January 1 John 2:22-28/John 1:19-28
  • 3 January 1 John 2:29-3:6/John 1:29-34
  • 4 January 1 John 3:7-10/John 1:35-42
  • 5 January 1 John 3:11-21/John 1:43-51
  • Epiphany of the Lord Isaiah 60:1-6/Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6/Matthew 2:1-12

In places where Epiphany is celebrated later than 6 January:

  • 6 January 1 John 5:5-13/Mark 1:7-11
  • 7 January 1 John 5:14-21/John 2:1-11

After celebration of Epiphany:

  • Monday or 7 January 1 John 3:22-4:6/Matthew 4:12-17,23-25
  • Tuesday or 8 January 1 John 4:7-10/Mark 6:34-44
  • Wednesday or 9 January 1 John 4:11-18/Mark 6:45-52
  • Thursday or 10 January 1 John 4:19-5:4/Luke 4:14-22
  • Friday or 11 January 1 John 5:5-13/Luke 5:12-16
  • Saturday or 12 January 1 John 5;14-21/John 3:22-30
  • 13 January (Baptism of the Lord)
    • A. Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7/Acts 10:34-38/Matthew 3:13-17
    • B. Isaiah 55:1-11/1 John 5:1-9/Mark 1:7-11
    • C. Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11/Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7/Luke 3:15-16,21-22

Eastern Christianity

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Christmas is the third most important feast (after Pascha and Pentecost). The day after, the Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Theotokos. This means that Saint Stephen's day and the feast of the Holy Innocents fall one day later than in the West. The coming of the Wise Men is celebrated on the feast itself. For more information, see Nativity Fast and Christmas Eve.

See also


  1. ^ Green, Jonathan (2009). Christmas Miscellany. Skyhorse Pub. p. 116.  
  2. ^ An Explanation of First Vespers
  3. ^ Hickman, Hoyt Leon (1 April 1984). United Methodist Altars. Abingdon Press.  
  4. ^ "Introduction to Christmas Season". General Board of Discipleship (GBOD). The United Methodist Church. 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2015. Christmas is a season of praise and thanksgiving for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, which begins with Christmas Eve (December 24 after sundown) or Day and continues through the Day of Epiphany. The name Christmas comes from the season's first service, the Christ Mass. Epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphania, which means "manifestation." New Year's Eve or Day is often celebrated in the United Methodist tradition with a Covenant Renewal Service. In addition to acts and services of worship for the Christmas Season on the following pages, see The Great Thanksgivings and the scripture readings for the Christmas Season in the lectionary. Use the colors of white and gold and materials of the finest texture for paraments, stoles, and banners. Signs of the season include a Chrismon tree, a nativity scene (include the magi on the Day of Epiphany), a Christmas star, angels, poinsettias, and roses. Gold, frankincense, myrrh, and three crowns are appropriate on the Day of Epiphany (January 6 or the Sunday nearest). 
  5. ^ Hickman, Hoyt Leon (1 April 1984). United Methodist Altars. Abingdon Press.  
  6. ^ : "The Christian Year"Clergy Resources
  7. ^ a b Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year, 33
  8. ^ a b Bratcher, Dennis (6 January 2014). "The Octave Day of Christmas: Historical Development and Modern Liturgical Practice". Christian Resource Institute (CRI). Retrieved 20 December 2014. Christmas begins with Christmas Day December 25 and lasts for Twelve Days until Epiphany, January 6, which looks ahead to the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity. The one or two Sundays between Christmas Day and Epiphany are sometimes called Christmastide. For many Protestant church traditions, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6th until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter. Depending on the timing of Easter, this longer period of Epiphany includes from four to nine Sundays. Other traditions, especially the Roman Catholic tradition, observe Epiphany as a single day, with the Sundays following Epiphany counted as Ordinary Time. 
  9. ^ a b Truscott, Jeffrey A. Worship. Armour Publishing. p. 103.  
  10. ^ Bratcher, Dennis (10 October 2014). "The Christmas Season". Christian Resource Institute. Retrieved 20 December 2014. ...the actual Christmas Season in most Western church traditions begins at sunset on Christmas Eve, December 24, and lasts through January 5. Since this time includes 12 days, the season of Christmas is known in many places as the Twelve Days of Christmas. 
  11. ^ English translation of the 1960 Code of Rubrics
  12. ^ Fr. Francis X. Weiser. "Feast of the Nativity". Catholic Culture. The Council of Tours (567) proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season, and established the duty of Advent fasting in preparation for the feast. The Council of Braga (563) forbade fasting on Christmas Day. Thus the groundwork was laid for a joyful celebration of the Lord's nativity, not only in the house of God but also in the hearts and homes of the people. 
  13. ^ Fox, Adam (19 December 2003). Tis the season"'". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 December 2014. Around the year 400 the feasts of St Stephen, John the Evangelist and the Holy Innocents were added on succeeding days, and in 567 the Council of Tours ratified the enduring 12-day cycle between the nativity and the epiphany. 
  14. ^ Forbes, Bruce David (1 October 2008). Christmas: A Candid History.  
  15. ^ Hynes, Mary Ellen (1993). Companion to the Calendar. Liturgy Training Publications. p. 8.  
  16. ^ Knight, Kevin (1908). "Christmas". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Retrieved 15 December 2014. The Second Council of Tours (can. xi, xvii) proclaims, in 566 or 567, the sanctity of the "twelve days" from Christmas to Epiphany, and the duty of Advent fast; that of Agde (506), in canons 63-64, orders a universal communion, and that of Braga (563) forbids fasting on Christmas Day. Popular merry-making, however, so increased that the "Laws of King Cnut", fabricated c. 1110, order a fast from Christmas to Epiphany. 
  17. ^ Bunson, Matthew (21 October 2007). "Origins of Christmas and Easter holidays".  
  18. ^ Hill, Christopher (2003). Holidays and Holy Nights: Celebrating Twelve Seasonal Festivals of the Christian Year. Quest Books. p. 91.  
  19. ^ Federer, William J. (6 January 2014). "On the 12th Day of Christmas". American Minute. Retrieved 25 December 2014. In 567 AD, the Council of Tours ended a dispute. Western Europe celebrated Christmas, December 25, as the holiest day of the season... but Eastern Europe celebrated Epiphany, January 6, recalling the Wise Men's visit and Jesus' baptism. It could not be decided which day was holier, so the Council made all 12 days from December 25 to January 6 "holy days" or "holidays," These became known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas." 
  20. ^  
  21. ^ Hutton, Ronald (2001). Oxford University Press.  
  22. ^ Dues, Greg (2008). Advent and Christmas. Twenty-Third Publications. p. 26.  
  23. ^ (Typographia Regia, Paris, 1714), pp. 355–368Acta Conciliorum et Epistolae DecretalesJean Hardouin, Philippe Labbé, Gabriel Cossart (editors),
  24. ^ Dowden, John (1910). The Church Year and Kalendar. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 20 December 1014. From the Sermons of Augustine we learn that in his time Jan. 1 was observed by Christians as a solemn fast, in protest against the licentious revelry and excesses of the pagans at this time of the year (Serm. 197, 198) And as late as the Second Council of Tours (a.d. 567) it is enjoined that, while all other days between the Nativity and the Epiphany are to be treated (in regard to use of food) as festivals, an exception is to be made for the space of three days at the beginning of January, for which time the fathers had appointed litanies to be made 'ad calcandam Gentilium consuetudinem.' But it should be remarked that the canon (17) dealing with the subject has special reference to fasts to be observed by monks. It is therefore not impossible that the fast had by this time ceased to be observed by the general body of the faithful, but, in a spirit of conservatism, was regarded as proper to be maintained in the monasteries. 
  25. ^ Annals of St. Joseph. Norbertine Fathers. 1935. Retrieved 9 April 2014. CHRISTMASTIDE OF OLD In medieval days Christmas lasted from the Nativity to the Purification. No one ever thought of removing the holly and the ivy until after the day of Our Lord's Presentation in the Temple. 
  26. ^ Phan, Peter C.; Brancatelli, Robert J. (2005). The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines - A Commentary. Liturgical Press. p. 82.  
  27. ^ Senn, Frank C. (2012). Introduction to Christian Liturgy. Fortress Press. p. 120.  
  28. ^ Atwell, Robert (2013-06-28). The Good Worship Guide: Leading Liturgy Well. Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. p. 212.  
  29. ^ Michelin (10 October 2012). Germany Green Guide Michelin 2012-2013. Michelin. p. 73.  
  30. ^ Normark, Helena (1997). "Modern Christmas". Graphic Garden. Retrieved 9 April 2014. Christmas in Sweden starts with Advent, which is the await for the arrival of Jesus. The symbol for it is the Advent candlestick with four candles in it, and we light one more candle for each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Most people start putting up the Christmas decorations on the first of Advent. 
  31. ^ "Candlemas". British Broadcasting Corporation. 16 September 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2014. Any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down. 
  32. ^ Raedisch, Linda (1 October 2013). The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year. Llewellyn Publications. p. 161.  
  33. ^ Aloian, Molly (30 September 2008). Christmas. Crabtree Publishing Company. p. 17.  
  34. ^ Altar (1885). Before The Altar. p. 25. Retrieved 28 March 2015. The frequency with which you should go to the Holy Table must depend on the special requirements of your own soul, on which it is well to take the advice of some Priest, as your spiritual adviser. The Church orders you to receive at least three times a year, of which one time is to be Easter, the other two presumably Christmas and Whitsuntide. 
  35. ^ Kubesh, Katie; McNeil, Niki; Bellotto, Kimm. The 12 Days of Christmas. In the Hands of a Child. p. 16. The Twelve Days of Christmas, also called Twelvetide, are also associated with festivities that begin on the evening of Christmas Day and last through the morning of Epiphany. This period is also called Christmastide ... one early American tradition was to make a wreath on Christmas Eve and hang it on the front door on Christmas night. The wreath stayed on the front door through Epiphany. Some families also baked a special cake for the Epiphany. Other Old Time Traditions from around the world include: Giving gifts on Christmas night only. Giving gifts on the Twelfth Night only. Giving gifts on each night. On the Twelfth Night, a Twelfth Night Cake or King Cake is served with a bean or pea baked in it. The person who finds the bean or pea in his or her portion is a King of Queen for the day. 
  36. ^ Bash, Anthony; Bash, Melanie (22 November 2012). Inside the Christmas Story. A&C Black. p. 132.  
  37. ^ Henry, O. (29 February 2012). The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories. Courier Corporation. p. 5.  
  38. ^ Christmastide at Oxford. The Hardvard Crimson. Original work published on 14 February 1885. Retrieved 2 May 2014
  39. ^ Nair, Malini (15 December 2013). "Cakewalk in Allahabad". The Times of India. Retrieved 28 March 2015. Around early December, an unusual kind of pilgrim starts to take the Prayag Raj from Delhi to Allahabad: the devout worshipper of the Allahabadi Christmas cake. This is no elegant western pudding — it is redolent with desi ghee, petha, ginger, nutmeg, javitri, saunf, cinnamon, something called cake ka jeera and marmalades from Loknath ki Galli. All this is browned to perfection at a bakery that has acquired cult status — Bushy's on Kanpur Road. The ancient city has had a great baking tradition. It could be because Allahabad has a sizeable population of Christians. 
  40. ^ Geddes, Gordon; Griffiths, Jane (2002). Christian Belief and Practice. Heinemann. p. 102.  
  41. ^ Parker, David (2005). Christmas and Charles Dickens. AMS Press.  
  42. ^ Newman, Jay (1 January 1996). Religion Vs. Television: Competitors in Cultural Context. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 101.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.