“You know my least favorite days of the year?”
I look up, bemused at my oldest son, ready for a proclamation.
“The days after a holiday,” he declares with a frown. “January 2nd. February 15th. The day after Easter. July 5th. The day after my birthday. The day after Thanksgiving. December 26th.”
I thank him for this litany of lament, trying not to crack a smile at his serious face. I offer some small protests: the day after Easter is still a feast; December 26th is part of the Christmas season.
But I see exactly where he’s coming from.
Today is the day after the Solemnity. The Christmas Octave is over, too.
In our house, that means no more presents—after eight solid days of kids running downstairs each morning to discover a little surprise under the tree.
We love to celebrate the Octave like crazy, counter-cultural Catholics. This tradition gives us a way to stretch out the delights of Christmas (and avoid the dazed gift-opening overload of the 25th), plus a reminder that the Christmas season lasts longer than one day.
So I understand my son’s sentiment.
Today we’re back to work and school. Parties and presents are now in past tense. The neighbors have shut off their Christmas lights. No more carols blare on the radio.
Still we are called to keep rejoicing, carrying the joy of Christmas with us into the New Year.
“Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you,” reminds today’s First Reading (1 John 2:24).
Let the beauty and power of this season stay strong, even as the holiday sparkle fades. Let the Incarnation continue to delight us: the astounding truth of Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Yes, we have to take down the Christmas tree eventually (before it becomes a true fire hazard). Yes, my groaning children are going back to school this morning.
But what we heard from the beginning—all the way from Advent’s burning hope to Christmas’ shining celebration of the Christ Child—will remain with us.
The day after is still a day to rejoice.
This beloved pontiff addresses rejoicing in the ordinary and in our times of suffering, too.
Laura Kelly Fanucci is a mother, writer, and director of a theological project on vocation. She and her husband are raising four sons and wrote a book together on grieving the loss of children, Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage. She is the author of seven books including Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting and Living Your Discipleship: 7 Ways to Express Your Deepest Calling. You can find out more about her here. She is the author of the Blessed Conversations Mystery: Behold study found here.