Ever wonder what people mean when they talk about "the holidays," as in, some sort of festive time during late December? I know many people in recent days have pulled holidays from a number of religions together and observed they happen at this time of year. But if we wind our clock back a few decades, or maybe even a century or two, here's what we'll find.
The season of Christmas proper begins at sundown on December 24. Here's what a churchgoer might find on the calendar of the Western Church around that time.
Christmas Eve, December 24
Christmas Day, December 25 - first and foremost a church celebration, presents are secondary.
St. Stephen, the First Christian Martyr, December 26
St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, December 27
Holy Innocents, December 28 - remembers the death of children at the hand of Herod.
The Holy Family, December 29 - Roman observance, not universal to the Western Church
The Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, December 31 - typically Lutheran, not universal to the Western Church
The Circumcision and Name of Jesus, January 1
Epiphany, January 6
Quite a handful of holidays, eh what? The twelve days of Christmas are pretty busy.