The Christmas Season begins at various times in various places. In northern Europe the Christmas Season begins on the Feast of Saint Martin, November 11th. This time of preparation for Christmas is known as ”Saint Martin’s Lent.”
In southern Europe the Christmas Season begins on the Feast of Saint Nicholas, December 6th or the Feast of Saint Lucy, December 13th.
These times mark the time of the final harvest and the time live stock are brought to market. In the northern regions this occurred a month before the final harvest occurred in the south.
It was a time to feast. There was no refrigeration, so meat had to be preserved by smoking or salting. Fresh meat had to be consumed before it would spoil or rot – hence a time to gather and celebrate.
In Europe these are still the times for the opening of the annual Christmas Fairs.
The liturgy of the Church enters into the full preparation for the Christmas Season on December 17th – the octave before the Feast.
In my childhood home this was the time my mother would finish up the Christmas baking. The beginning of the Christmas baking took place in the early spring when the fruitcake was made. It was then wrapped in cloth soaked in brandy and stored in a cool place for the nine months before Christmas Eve, when it would make its appearance – the announcement of the Christmas Feast and Season.
What are the traditions in your home for the preparation of the Feast. Is there decorating or gift-wrapping? Do you use the Advent Wreath to mark down the weeks before Christmas? Do you spend rehearsal time in preparation for a Christmas concert?
Remember, Christmas is not only a Feast, it is most importantly a Season, and there can be much to be done to prepare to keep the Season.
Father Steve Adrian