When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 26, radio stations turn off Christmas music and department stores box up their Christmas displays. But for us as Christians, Christmas has only just begun. Here are 10 tips for keeping Christ in Christmas.
1. Know when the Christmas season actually ends
The joy of Christmas cannot be contained to just one day or one Mass. The Christmas season lasts until the Catholic Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord, which this year is Jan. 10.
2. Listen to Christmas music
Pull out your CDs (old-fashioned, right?) or make a Spotify playlist. Listen to Christmas music that lifts your heart and mind to God, especially now that you will not hear Christmas music on the radio.
3. Attend daily Mass
The Octave of Christmas — through Jan. 1 — is one of the richest times of the liturgical year. Come to Mass to celebrate St. Stephen, the Holy Family, the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas Beckett, and Mary, the Mother of God on Jan. 1.
4. Keep your Christmas decorations on display
While it may be tacky to leave the Christmas lights up year-round, at least keep them up through Jan. 10. Some prefer to keep decorations up until the celebration of the Presentation of Jesus on Feb. 2.
5. Invest in a beautiful Nativity scene
The tradition of recreating the Nativity scene goes back to St. Francis of Assisi. Every Catholic household should have a Nativity scene, either inside or outside. It does not have to be fancy, but it is a good way to remember the One who Christmas is all about.
6. Let the Three Wise Men take their journey
The Three Wise Men did not arrive on Christmas Day. Bring them on a journey a little closer to the stable each day between Christmas and the Epiphany on Jan. 3. This would be a good task for the little ones in the house!
7. Say “Merry Christmas!”
The cashier at your grocery store may be a bit confused to hear “Merry Christmas” in the first week of January. When they look at you sideways, just say that for Catholics, Christmas is not over yet!
8. Celebrate Advent well
Preparation for Christmas should not be a burden. Do you ever feel yourself letting out a sigh of relief when Christmas day is over? If so, allow Advent to be a time of spiritual preparation and not a time of stress.
9. Pray every day
Jesus invites all of us to a deep friendship with him. Christmas happened because Jesus wanted to live with us and show us how much he loves each one of us. It is important to reciprocate this love by giving him time in prayer each day. No matter how busy the schedule is, make prayer a priority.
10. Give gifts all through the Christmas season
Allow Christmas to be a season of giving. Giving the gift of time and attention will be a more meaningful gift than anything material. Visit the homebound, call an old friend, and let your family know that you are thinking of them.
Father Dominic Vahling is parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and co-chaplain at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield.