The two months, December and January, contain three seasons of the church year. At Christmas, of course, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The celebration of Christmas extends for 12 days, until Epiphany, January 6. The primary decoration in the church at Christmas is a crèche, or manger scene, depicting the baby Jesus in the stable at his birth along with his parents, visitors and animals. There is an old tradition that the Christmas tree and its decorations are taken down by the twelfth day of Christmas.
Advent is a time for preparation for Christmas. There is another tradition that carols are not sung in Advent before Christmas Eve, as they are not appropriate before the baby Jesus is born.
The third season is Epiphany, which begins on January 6 and continues to the Transfiguration, 26th February. Epiphany means “appearance,” or “display” and the day of Epiphany commemorates the visit of the three wise men to the baby Jesus. (So, strictly speaking, we should not have the wise men in the crèche scene at Christmas.) The wise men were non-Jewish holy men. Their visit to Jesus is taken to show that the birth of Jesus was not just for the Jewish people, but for non-Jews (Gentiles) as well. Singing of Christmas carols traditionally ends at Epiphany.
Looking ahead, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 1st March, Palm Sunday is 9th April and Easter Day, 16th April.
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