Season of Christmas

The Season of Christmas follows Advent, beginning with Vespers on Christmas Eve and ending with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. “The feast of Christmas, on December 25th, celebrates the birth of Jesus and the mystery of the Incarnation.  God entered the world as an infant, fully human in every way.  It is a joyful feast, during which we remember that God is with us, bringing joy and hope to the world by sharing our humanity” (The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, p. 140).

Our joy is evident in the array of flowers and greenery in the liturgical environment.  Throughout the Octave of Christmas and until the beginning of Lent our Church will help us embrace all of creation and remind us of the great joy the Birth of Jesus brings to each of us.

Evergreens are a popular part of the holiday decorating tradition, and have been for many centuries.  Christians have not been the only ones to use Christmas trees in winter.

People who hang evergreen in their homes practice an ancient tradition of filling the home with plants believed to offer new life and vitality.  Evergreens remained alive and even bore berries and fruit despite the cold of winter to the astonishment of ancient European peoples, who carried these plants into their homes in hopes that these plants would give them the same qualities.

Evergreens symbolize new life and resurrection in many ancient European cultures.  The ancient Celts decorated with greens for protection and used greens in their winter holidays. They tied fruit and other objects to evergreen branches and decorated evergreen trees with candles to honor their gods.

The tradition of decorating the home with boughs of evergreen trees became a Christian tradition during the early Middle Ages.  An 8th century legend has the German St. Boniface cut down an oak tree, a symbol of paganism, and an evergreen tree spout up in its place.  The saint declared the evergreen tree a triumphant Christian symbol of everlasting life, as its boughs stay green all year.

The poinsettia with its star shaped foliage pattern has been connected with the Star of Bethlehem shining at the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-21). The poinsettia’s blood red leaves symbolize the blood sacrificed for love of God. Scriptural events connected with the poinsetta include the deaths of the Holy Innocents, babies killed by King Herod madly in search of Jesus (Matthew 2:13-18) as well as the Jesus’ death and crucifixion (all four gospels).