Q. When is the right time to take down Christmas decorations? Some members of my family take them down before New Year’s Eve, and others seem to leave them throughout January.
A. Christmas is more than just a day. It begins with the great feast day of Christmas on Dec. 25, but, in fact, Christmas is an entire season in the Church’s life— a liturgical season which lasts from Dec. 25 until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this year on Jan. 11.
So it is appropriate to commemorate Christmas for that entire period. Catholics also recognize the “octave” of Christmas— the days between Christmas and Epiphany, which is celebrated Jan. 4. Throughout the octave of Christmas, and the entire Christmas liturgical season, we should wish one another “Merry Christmas,” and continue to celebrate Christ’s coming.
Different cultures have long-standing traditions about when to decorate for Christmas, and how long Christmas decorations should remain up. These traditions are valuable reminders of the liturgical year’s effect on the formation of truly Christian culture, and Catholics can observe them in ways which recognize their own cultural identity, and the beautiful traditions of other Christian cultures. The more we celebrate Christmas, the more we’re reminded to welcome Jesus Christ into our hearts, and into our homes.
Whether the tree comes down on Jan. 1, or Jan. 4, or Jan. 11 is a matter of our customs—but each one of us should continue to celebrate the birth of the Lord through the Christmas season, and to continue to follow him when Christmas has ended.
Q. Could a non-Catholic person become a canonized saint?
A. When the Church canonizes a saint, she affirms that the person’s life was a model of virtue and holiness, and worthy of imitation in our own lives of Christian discipleship. We may ask for a saint’s intercession from heaven in public prayer and worship, including the Church’s liturgies.
A non-Catholic Christian can, of course, be an active, faithful, virtuous, and holy disciple of Jesus Christ, and much about a non-Catholic’s life might be worthy of imitation. For example, the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who heroically resisted National Socialism in Germany, has much to teach us about living the Christian life.
But the fullness of the faith is found within the communion of the Catholic Church, and a non-Catholic does not enjoy full communion with the Church Jesus established, the Catholic Church.
Like the saints in heaven, we should direct our prayer for the unity of the Church, that all Christians might be blessed with the fullness of truth.
Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.