Christmastide (also Christmas or the Christmas season) is one of the seasons of the liturgical year of most Christian churches. It tends to be defined (with slight variations) as the period from Christmas Eve to Epiphany. This period is also commonly known as the Twelve Days of Christmas, as referred to in the Christmas carol of the same name, or Yuletide, as in "Deck the Halls".
Many Protestant churches add an Epiphany season (Epiphanytide) after the Christmas season, extending the celebration of Christmas for forty days until the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas) on 2 February (or a nearby Sunday), a traditional practice that was standard in Christendom in the medieval era. However, in the Missal and Breviary of the Roman rite, since 1970, the Christmas season in the Catholic Church runs a shorter period, from Christmas Eve to the Baptism of the Lord, which depending on the place and the year can occur between 7 January and 13 January. In the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the season runs from Vespers on 24 December till Compline on 2 February.
During the season, various festivities are traditionally enjoyed and buildings decorated. In the Western Christian world, the two traditional days that Christmas decorations are removed are Twelfth Night or Candlemas, the latter of which ends the Christmas-Epiphany season in some denominations. Leaving the decorations up beyond Candlemas is historically considered to be inauspicious.
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.
- "Christmastide". Holy Trinity (German) Catholic Church.
- "The Schema of Christmastide". Holy Trinity (German) Catholic Church.
- 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."
- Annals of St. Joseph (in English). 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."
- 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."
- "Candlemas" (in English). British Broadcasting Corporation. 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."
- 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.
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- Weeks of Advent
- A Biblical Reflection on the 12 Day Church Season of Christmas at the Bible Resource Center