Happy second day of Christmas! Or, if you like, Happy Saint Stephen’s Day

Each December, one of the most-played and sung tunes is The Twelve Days of Christmas. What exactly is that all about? Well, Christmas is actually not just one day for Christians, but a twelve day season, culminating in Epiphany, a day reserved for the remembrance of the coming of wise men who brought gifts to the Christ child. (And the precursor for our society’s annual custom of wretched gift-giving excess. But I’m getting ahead of myselfe.

Since on the Christian calendar, Christmas just began yesterday, I thought that it might be helpful to re-run an old tried and true post I first wrote at least seven years ago, explaining the Church Year. Hope you find it helpful.

The Church Year is a human invention. Observing it won’t make us better than anybody else. Nor does keeping it “save” a person from sin and death.

But the Church Year is one of those customs or traditions designed to help people know the God we meet in Jesus and also help believers to grow in their faith.

The Church Year is built around three great festivals: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.

Christmas, of course, is the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Easter is the day remembering Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Pentecost remembers the occasion fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection and ten days after His ascension into heaven when the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ praying disciples and gave birth to the Church.

Historically, Easter was the first holiday (that word, by the way, contracts two words: holy day) that Christians began to celebrate.

This only makes sense, as it’s Jesus’ resurrection that gives Christians hope for this life and the one to come. While early Christians did seem to remember Easter on a Sunday falling at the beginning of the Jewish Passover, the practice of the first Christians, all of whom were Jews like Jesus, was to worship on the traditional Jewish Sabbath–from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday–and to celebrate every Sunday as a little Easter. (Some echo of this can be found in the Gospel of John’s occasional references to an “eighth day,” a new beginning in a new week.)

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  • ShannonLeee

    Now I know why Germans celebrate the second day of Christmas. 🙂

  • PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor

    In some cultures/families there is also a tradition of spreading out the holiday with visits to family. So you have a big Christmas dinner on the 25th but then as the days move along you spend one with sub elements (for example the wife’s family one day, the husband’s the next, then various family friends).

    This allows for a more intimate interaction with each group and less stress and pressure.