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Christmastide (also Christmas Time or the Christmas season) is a season of the liturgical year in most Christian churches.

For most Christian denominations, such as The United Methodist Church and the Catholic Church, Christmastide begins on Christmas Eve at sunset or First Vespers,[1] which is liturgically the beginning of Christmas Day.[2][3][4][5][6] Most of Christmas Eve, understood as 24 December, is thus part not of Christmastide, but of Advent. Oxford Dictionaries offer a definition that does not limit Christmastide to a single day either before or after 25 December.[7]

The precise ending of Christmastide is also defined differently.[8] 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.[8][9] 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."[6] 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 of 5th January inclusive".[10]


Fasting in Christmastide[edit]

In the 4th century, Philastrius mentioned a fast before Epiphany.[11] The sermons of Saint Augustine, who died in 430, show that Christians then observed 1 January as a fast day, in protest against the licentiousness of the traditional new year festivities.[12][13] In 567, a Council held at Tours spoke of a three-day fast at the beginning of January as an ancient custom, and ordered monks to observe it.[14] In that canon, which dealt with the fasts to be observed by monks,[12] 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.)

Joseph Bingham quotes part of this canon in a form that does not include the clause itemque prandebunt (they shall have a full meal).[11]

Bingham recalls what Philastrius said of the pre-Epiphany fast and says that the Council of Tours confirmed that 1 January was to be kept not as a festival but as a fast.[11] John Dowden likewise cites the same canon 17 of the Council of Tours as showing that the ancient Christian custom of treating 1 January as a fast day and not as a festival continued to be observed as late as the second half of the 6th century. He cites Adrien Baillet for the view that the first appearance of 1 January as a festival rather than as a fast is in the mid-7th century in Spain, but Dowden himself adds that the acts of the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633 still speak of the day as having penitential features.[12] Alban Butler also cites the 567 Council of Tours as showing that at that time a solemn fast was observed on the first three days of the year.[15] Clement A. Miles cites the Council as evidence of the observance of a solemn fast on the first three days of January.[16] Adolf Adam adds that the ecclesiastical custom of fasting at the start of the calendar year is witnessed to not only by the 6th-century Council of Tours, but even later by the 7th-century Fourth Council of Toledo.[17] Christopher Labadie finds evidence already in the 4th century for the custom that the Council of Tours speaks of.[13] Greg Dues also cites the Second Council of Tours as evidence for the custom.[18] Ronald Hutton also mentions the decree of the Second Council of Tours by which the three days of fasting divided the days of rejoicing between Christmas and Epiphany into two blocs.[19]

Sanctity of the Twelve Days between Christmas and Epiphany[edit]

The Catholic Encyclopedia[20] states that "The Second Council of Tours (can. xi, xvii) proclaims, in 566 or 567, the sanctity of the 'twelve days' from Christmas to Epiphany".[21] Mary Ellen Hynes states that "In the year 567 the church council of Tours called the 13 days between December 25 and January 6 a festival season",[22] and Matthew Bunson also states that "The Council of Tours (567) decreed the 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany to be sacred and especially joyous, thus setting the stage for the celebration of the Lord's birth not only in a liturgical setting but in the hearts of all Christians",[23] a statement corroborated by the words of Francis X. Weiser.[24] Others speak of the Council as either "ratifying" an enduring 12-day season[25] or "creating" such a season.[26] Bruce David Forbes, in his text Christmas: A Candid History, published by the University of California Press, states that the Council of Tours "proclaimed that the entire period between Christmas and Epiphany should be considered part of the celebration, creating what became known as the twelve days of Christmas, or what the English called Christmastide."[26] Ronald Hutton adds that, within the 12-day festal cycle declared by the Council of Tours, three fasting days divided the rejoicing days that preceded the three from those that followed them.[19] The text of the 567 Council, confirmed by Bingham,[11] states in its canon 17 that all the days of the Christmas to Epiphany period were already saints' feast days and that, to tread down non-Christian customs, the Church Fathers had established that the first three days of January should be devoted to fasting and the chanting of special litanies; additionally, it decreed in its canon 22 that any Christian who on those days participated in pagan rites should be excluded from the church.[27] C.C. Martindale says that, in spite of the proclamation of the sanctity of the "twelve days", popular merry-making increased to such an extent that the early 12th-century "Laws of King Cnut" ordered that they should be kept as a fast.[21] Their traditional sanctity, to which the Second Council of Tours gave witness, remains, so that it is a commonplace to refer to Christmastide as a holy season.[28][29][30][31]

Coordinating solar and lunar calendars by the 567 Council of Tours[edit]

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."[32][33][34]

The area of Gaul that the Council of Tours was legislating for was outside the Roman Empire. In that empire's surviving eastern provinces, the Julian calendar had replaced lunar calendars half a millennium before 567.

Length of Christmastide[edit]

In medieval era Christendom, Christmastide "lasted from the Nativity to the Purification."[35][36] 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'."[37] Many Churches refer to the period after 5 January as the Epiphany season.[38][39]


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

During the Christmas season, various festivities are traditionally enjoyed and buildings are adorned with decoratations, which are often setup during Advent. 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.[40] Leaving the decorations up beyond Candlemas is considered to be inauspicious.[41]

In Oxford, people celebrate this period through serving a traditional dish called Boar’s head.[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[edit]


  • 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[edit]

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[edit]


  1. ^ An Explanation of First Vespers
  2. ^ Hickman, Hoyt Leon (1 April 1984). United Methodist Altars. Abingdon Press. ISBN 9780687429851. Retrieved 5 January 2015. CHRISTMAS EVE: Begins at sunset December 24 and is part of Christmas, since the days of the Christian year traditionally begin at sunset the previous day. 
  3. ^ "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). 
  4. ^ Hickman, Hoyt Leon (1 April 1984). United Methodist Altars. Abingdon Press. ISBN 9780687429851. Retrieved 5 January 2015. Christmas Season: From sunset December 24 through January 6. The season celebrating the birth and manifestation (epiphany) of Christ. 
  5. ^ Clergy Resources: "The Christian Year"
  6. ^ a b Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year, 33
  7. ^ Oxford Dictionaries: "Christmastide"
  8. ^ a b Truscott, Jeffrey A. Worship. Armour Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 9789814305419. As with the Easter cycle, churches today celebrate the Christmas cycle in different ways. Practically all Protestants observe Christmas itself, with services on 25 December or the evening before. Anglicans, Lutherans and other churches that use the ecumenical Revised Common Lectionary will likely observe the four Sundays of Advent, maintaining the ancient emphasis on the eschatological (First Sunday), ascetic (Second and Third Sundays), and scriptural/historical (Fourth Sunday). Besides Christmas Eve/Day, they will observe a 12-day season of Christmas from 25 December to 5 January. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ English translation of the 1960 Code of Rubrics
  11. ^ a b c d Bingham, Joseph (1726). The Antiquities of the Christian Church. Robert Knaplock. p. 357. Retrieved 20 December 2014. Besides these Fasts at the Four Seasons, Philastrius mentions a Fast before Epiphany, or rather, as has been observed before, put it in the Room of the Fast of September. The Second Council of Tours [Conc. Turon. 2. can. 18. Inter Natalem Domini & Epiphaniam omni die Festivitates sunt. Excipitur Triduum illud, quo ad calcandam Gentilium consuetudinem, Patres nostri statuerunt privatas in Kalendis Januarii fieri Litanias. &c.] takes notice of this, and tells us it was appointed particularly at that Time in Opposition to the Heathen Festivals. which they were used to observe with a great deal of Corruption, and licentious Revellings for Three Days together: Which Three Days the Fathers chose to make Days of Abstinence and private Litanies, to refrain the People from running into the extravagant Riots and Excesses of the Heathen. So that New-year's-Day, or Circumcision, was rather kept as a Fast, than a Festival, for several Ages in the Church. [...] One of the French [Conc. Turon. 2. can. 18. [...] In Augusto, quia quotidie Missae Sanctorum sunt, prandium habeant ] [...] August is excepted, because in this Month every Day almost was celebrated as the Festival of some Martyr [Ibid. can. 19] 
  12. ^ a b c 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 
  13. ^ a b Labadie, Christopher (June 2014). "The Octave Day of Christmas: Historical Development and Modern Liturgical Practice". Obsculta 7 (1): 89–90. Retrieved 20 December 2014. The earliest evidence for the celebration of an official octave day of Christmas is not until the seventh century [Pierre Jounel, "The Year: The Christmas Season" in The Church at Prayer, Volume IV: The Liturgy and Time, ed. A.G. Martimort (Collegeville: the Liturgical Press 1986), 84]. In the preceding centuries the Church resisted celebrations on January 1st due to pagan idol worship and debauchery, which surrounded the New Year [Adolf Adam, The Liturgical Year (C...1990), 139]. Instead, the Church observed January 1st as a day of penance so that the faithful might refrain from participating in idolatrous activities. In the fourth century the monk Telemachus was martyred after exhorting a stadium full of revelers to "Cease from the superstition of idols and polluted sacrifices. [For]Today is the octave of the Lord!" [Tanya Gulevich, Encyclopedia of Christmas (Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2000), 209] Around the same time the Church in Rome began to celebrate a Missa ad prohibendum ab idolis (Mass for prohibition of idols) [Adam, The Liturgical Year, 139] and ne encouraged the faithful to celebrate the New Year with "prayer and penance". [Catholic University, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 658] These penitential practices were confirmed by both the Second Council of Tours in 567 c.e. and the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633 c.e., which called for prayer, penance and fasting during the first days of the new year. [Ibid.]. This penitential emphasis lasted into the seventh century, when the Roman Church adopted a Constantinopolitan commemoration of Mary and assigned it to January 1st. 
  14. ^ Jean Hardouin, Philippe Labbé, Gabriel Cossart (editors), Acta Conciliorum et Epistolae Decretales (Typographia Regia, Paris, 1714), pp. 355–368
  15. ^ Butler, Alban; Butler, Charles (1839). The Moveable Feasts, Fasts, and Other Annual Observances of the Catholic Church. James Duffy. p. 110. Retrieved 20 December 2014. This fast on the new year's day is mentioned by the Second Council of Tours, can. xvii. 
  16. ^ Miles, Clement A. (2012). Christmas in Ritual and Tradition. Netlancers. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-62394116-1. Retrieved 20 December 2014. In Gaul, as is shown by a decree of the Council of Tours in 567, a solemn fast was held on the Circumcision and the two days following it, in order to turn away the faithful from the pagan festivities of the Kalends 
  17. ^ Adam, Adolf (1990). The Liturgical Year. Liturgical Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-81466047-8. Retrieved 20 December 2014. The Second Council of Tours (567) prescribed that penitential exercises were to be held on the first three days of January as a way of eliminating pagan practices, and the Fourth Council of Toledo (633) ordered a strict fast modeled on the Lenten fast 
  18. ^ Dues, Greg (2008). Advent and Christmas. Twenty-Third Publications. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-58595722-4. Retrieved 20 December 2014. January 1 has had many religious themes in Christian history. None of them are associated with the secular understanding of New Year's Day so popular in our society today. At first the day was celebrated as special because it was the Octave of Christmas and, so to speak, a repeat of that day and theme. The church promoted penitential liturgies and fasting to offset the influence of pagan New Year's boisterous practices. In the year 567, the Second Council of Tours prescribed a three-day fast to correspond with the first days of the new year. 
  19. ^ a b Hutton, Ronald (2001). Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191578427. Retrieved 25 December 2014. In 567 the council of Tours declared that the whole period of twelve days between the Nativity and Epiphany formed one festal cycle. It also confirmed that three of those days, representing the old Kalendae, would be kept as fasts between two blocs of rejoicing. 
  20. ^ The Original Catholic Encyclopedia
  21. ^ a b Martindale, Cyril Charles (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. 
  22. ^ Hynes, Mary Ellen (1993). Companion to the Calendar. Liturgy Training Publications. p. 8. ISBN 9781568540115. In the year 567 the church council of Tours called the 13 days between December 25 and January 6 a festival season. Up until that time the only other joyful church season was the 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. 
  23. ^ Bunson, Matthew (21 October 2007). "Origins of Christmas and Easter holidays". Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Retrieved 17 December 2014. The Council of Tours (567) decreed the 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany to be sacred and especially joyous, thus setting the stage for the celebration of the Lord's birth not only in a liturgical setting but in the hearts of all Christians. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ a b Forbes, Bruce David (1 October 2008). Christmas: A Candid History. University of California Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780520258020. In 567 the Council of Tours proclaimed that the entire period between Christmas and Epiphany should be considered part of the celebration, creating what became known as the twelve days of Christmas, or what the English called Christmastide. On the last of the twelve days, called Twelfth Night, various cultures developed a wide range of additional special festivities. The variation extends even to the issue of how to count the days. If Christmas Day is the first of the twelve days, then Twelfth Night would be on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. If December 26, the day after Christmas, is the first day, then Twelfth Night falls on January 6, the evening of Epiphany itself. After Christmas and Epiphany were in place, on December 25 and January 6, with the twelve days of Christmas in between, Christians gradually added a period called Advent, as a time of spiritual preparation leading up to Christmas. 
  27. ^ Cite error: The named reference Acta was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  28. ^ Margaret Frazer, The Servant's Tale (Dream Machine Productions, 2014), chapter 7
  29. ^ Merrimack Messenger, Volumes 11-12, p. 75
  30. ^ Friedrich O Rest, Our Christian Worship (Css Publishing Company 1985 ISBN 9780895367617), pp. 33, 44
  31. ^ Mrs H.C. Bolton (editor), The Record, vols. 13–15, 1905, p. 51
  32. ^ Hill, Christopher (2003). Holidays and Holy Nights: Celebrating Twelve Seasonal Festivals of the Christian Year. Quest Books. p. 91. ISBN 9780835608107. This arrangement became an 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. While the Romans could roughly match the months in the two systems, the four cardinal points of the solar year--the two equinoxes and solstices--still fell on different dates. By the time of the first century, the calendar date of the winter solstice in Egypt and Palestine was eleven to twelve days later than the date in Rome. As a result the Incarnation came to be celebrated on different days in different parts of the Empire. The Western Church, in its desire to be universal, eventually took them both--one became Christmas, one Epiphany--with a resulting twelve days in between. Over time this hiatus became invested with specific Christian meaning. The Church gradually filled these days with saints, some connected to the birth narratives in Gospels (Holy Innocents' Day, December 28, in honor of the infants slaughtered by Herod; St. John the Evangelist, "the Beloved," December 27; St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, December 26; the Holy Family, December 31; the Virgin Mary, January 1). In 567, the Council of Tours declared the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to become one unified festal cycle. 
  33. ^ 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." 
  34. ^ Kirk Cameron, William Federer (6 November 2014). Praise the Lord. Trinity Broadcasting Network. Event occurs at 01:15:14. Retrieved 25 December 2014. Another interesting thing is the Council of Tours in 567 A.D. What's that? Western Europe celebrated Christmas December 25 as the holiest day. Eastern Europe celebrated January 6 the Epiphany, the visit of the Wise Men, as the holiest day. I guess they didn't have other things to argue about back then but this was a big deal and so they had this council and they decided to make all twelve days from December 25 to January 6 the Twelve Days of Christmas. 
  35. ^ 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. 
  36. ^ Phan, Peter C.; Brancatelli, Robert J. (2005). The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines - A Commentary. Liturgical Press. p. 82. ISBN 9780814628935. Retrieved 9 April 2014. The feast of the Presentation of the Lord originated in the East and was known as the feast of the Purification of Our lady until 1969, falling forty days after Christmas and serving as the traditional end of Christmastide. 
  37. ^ Senn, Frank C. (2012). Introduction to Christian Liturgy. Fortress Press. p. 120. ISBN 9781451424331. 
  38. ^ Atwell, Robert (2013-06-28). The Good Worship Guide: Leading Liturgy Well. Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. p. 212. ISBN 9781853117190. The Christmas-Epiphany Season, celebrating the Incarnation of our Lord, begins with Evening Prayer on Christmas Eve and finishes after Evening Prayer on the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas) when Simeon and Anna greet the child Jesus and recognize him as the long-awaited Messiah. Christmastide lasts 12 days, with the Feast of the Epiphany (The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles) celebrating on 6 January. 
  39. ^ 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. 
  40. ^ "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. 
  41. ^ Raedisch, Linda (1 October 2013). The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year. Llewellyn Publications. p. 161. ISBN 9780738734507. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  42. ^ Christmastide at Oxford. The Hardvard Crimson. Original work published on 14 February 1885. Retrieved 2 May 2014