Christmas Season

Christmas Season

How long is the Christmas season? The answer varies from place to place and from age to age. In the United States today, the Christmas season is often equated with the shopping and gift-return season. In other times and places, calendar customs or related observances opened and closed the Christmas season.

In past eras Europeans began their Christmas season on a variety of dates on which Christmas-related events and observances took place. In medieval and Renaissance times the English sometimes selected a local Lord of Misrule, a kind of clown who presided over Christmas festivities, as early as Halloween or All Saints' Day (November 1). The first day of Advent, which occurs on the Sunday closest to November 30, also served as an important date with regard to the European Christmas season. In some parts of Europe the Christmas season began on December 6, St. Nicholas's Day. In Sweden the season still begins with St. Lucy's Day on December 13.

For many centuries the Twelve Days of Christmas stood at the heart of the European Christmas season. The Twelve Days begin on December 25 and last until Twelfth Night. This period includes a number of other observances such as St. Stephen's Day, St. John's Day, Holy Innocents' Day, the Feast of the Circumcision, and New Year's Day.

Virtually no one ended their seasonal celebration on December 26, the day after Christmas. Even today, Americans extend the Christmas season through New Year's Day. In the past, however, many Europeans assumed that Christmas ended on Epiphany, January 6. An old English folk custom sent farm laborers back to work on Plough Monday, the Monday after the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Women resumed their labors on St. Distaff's Day, January 7. Scandinavian folk beliefs taught that the Christmas season ended on January 12, the twentieth day of Christmas, which the Swedes and Norwegians celebrate as St. Knut's Day. In Scotland's Shetland Islands, however, Christmas lasted until Old Twenty-Fourth night, which was marked by a festival called Up Helly Aa (see also Old Christmas Day). In past centuries some English Christmas customs, such as decorating homes with greenery, extended as late as Candlemas, February 2. In other areas of Europe people finally dismantled their Nativity scenes on Candlemas.

In Latin America, eastern Europe, and the Middle East different dates and observances may mark the beginning and the end of the Christmas season. In Syria the Christmas season opens with St. Barbara's Day on December 4. In a few Latin American countries the Christmas season begins on December 8 with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In the Philippines and some parts of Latin America, the holiday season begins on December 16 with a Christmas novena (a series of special religious services or private devotions offered on nine consecutive days; see also Misa de Gallo; Posadas, Las). In Russia Orthodox Christians still schedule their feast days according to the old, Julian calendar (see Old Christmas Day). Therefore, they celebrate Christmas on January 7, as do Orthodox Ethiopians (see also Ethiopia, Christmas in). Orthodox Armenians living in the Holy Land who follow the Julian calendar celebrate Epiphany and Christmas together on January 19 (see also Armenia, Christmas in).

In recent years commercial interests have defined the Christmas season for many Americans. In the early twentieth century retailers promoted the idea that the Christmas shopping season begins on the day after Thanksgiving. These days, however, retailers may bombard consumers with Christmas merchandise and promotions as early as October.

Further Reading

MacDonald, Margaret Read, ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1992.
Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations, 2nd ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2003
References in classic literature ?
'Trot, I tell you what, my dear,' said my aunt, one morning in the Christmas season when I left school: 'as this knotty point is still unsettled, and as we must not make a mistake in our decision if we can help it, I think we had better take a little breathing-time.
"We have allowed the vendors to sell their products during the Christmas season. Now that the Christmas season is over, we want to bring back the stretch of Recto Avenue and the other adjacent streets in Divisoria to the people by making it accessible, free of vendors, garbage and other obstructions," Mayor Joseph Estrada said.
announced on Wednesday that there were no reports on eight focused crimes during the celebration of Christmas season in the city.
'The indiscriminate attack of the NPA, while the people are preparing for coming of the Christmas season, manifests the rebel groups' disregard to the welfare and well-being of the people.
figure By WACHIRA MWANGI Political and religious leaders in Mombasa County want assurance of security for locals and visitors ahead of the Christmas season. class="MsoNormalThe leaders, who were attending the Mombasa County Governor's Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Treasury Square, said that criminal gangs have caused fear and panic among residents.
Leofoo Village Theme Park in Hsinchu County is celebrating the Christmas season with a Santa Claus coming from the North Pole for a month's long stay, a silver white Christmas town, and 40% discount admission for visitors who are wearing a red or green upper outer garment, according to a news release issued by the park on Saturday.
In an order issued on Wednesday, Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said that DepEd amended the start of the Christmas break because it is DepEd's policy to encourage the spending by students of quality time with the family during the Christmas season.
With donations in the past, the community has enabled the committee to assist over 250 area families during the Christmas season.
Cyprus Airways announces extra flights during the Christmas season to Heraklion and Beirut.
AMAZON has announced that it will hire 1,500 extra seasonal workers in our region to prepare for the Christmas season.
Christmas carols performed on candle lights in Melbourne- photo courtesy of Flickr CAIRO -- 27 December 2017: Although Christmas Carols were only recognized as tailored songs only for Christmas season, most of these carols were not originally created for Christmas season.