Christmas ends Jan. 13
In the “usus antiquior” of the Roman rite, per the general rubrics of the Roman Breviary, “Christmastide” includes both “the season of Christmas” (the 12 days seen earlier) and “the season of Epiphany,” which is the eight days from the Epiphany on Jan. 6 to the commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 13.
What is now called the season of Epiphany was, until 1955, observed as the Octave of the Epiphany.
Christmas ends on Candlemas
Now we’re talking.
Candlemas, or the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, is Feb. 2. On this day, many Catholics bring candles to the church to be blessed. They can then light these candles at home during prayer or difficult times as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
Candlemas is the last day that the Alma Redemptoris Mater is the Marian antiphon appended to hours of the Divine Office. The Alma Redemptoris Mater is used from the beginning of Advent through Feb. 2, and so Candlemas has come to be associated with the close of the Christmas season.
Candlemas is still observed with public, Christmas-esque celebrations throughout the world, including in Peru, Puerto Rico, France, and Belgium.
On the other hand, Septuagesima Sunday — which is definitely not part of Christmas — has been known to fall before Feb. 2, giving the lie to the Christmas-is-until-Candlemas party.
What do the U.S. bishops say?
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the liturgical season of Christmas ends with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.
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After the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, clergy are to wear the green vestments of Ordinary Time. The feast, which the USCCB states is the end of Christmas, is observed this liturgical year on the Monday after Epiphany, Jan. 9.
So when does Christmas end?
The exact right time to observe the end of the Christmas season? That is largely a personal call, based on your own traditions, customs, and other factors. For safety reasons, CNA recommends that you take your tree down as soon as it starts shedding a ton of pine needles, but other than that, there’s an argument for leaving things up as late as Feb. 2. Of course, your neighbors may disagree, but that’s a “them” problem, not a “you” problem.
Editor’s Note: This story was first written about Christmas 2021. It has been edited to reflect Christmas 2022.