What is an 'Octave' (Religious Calendar)?

I always get a religious calendar from my local church every year. I was brought up Catholic, and I just like to know what is going on that particular day.

Anyways, one thing that has vexed me ever since I saw it as a child. Every important feast day, like Christmas now for example, has an “octave”. 8 days, naturally. But why? What happens in the octave? What happens when it is over? I know the Christmas season ends with the Baptism of Our Lord. So it isn’t that.

Today, for example, is the second day in the octave of Christmas. What does that mean?

Thank you in advance for dispelling my ignorance:).


It is a special liturgical cycle associated with the holiest feast days. It prolongs the celebration of that feast with specific readings, prayers, and daily devotions, most of which would be contained in the Liturgy of the Hours (readings and prayers for the canonical hours throughout the day and night). Religious orders in common and more committed laypersons (usually these in private) pray the hours. More here: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/blog/index.cfm?id=237

This is not “new” but it is probably part of the post-Vatican II reforms that these practices are now more available to and promoted to the laity than they once were.

Actually, since he was Jewish, with his circumcision. He wasn’t baptized until he was an adult, but I guess since it was also the day he received his name in a sense it was the day he was Christened.:slight_smile:

For some reason when I was in Parochial School they never actually explained what was involved in a circumcision…

Jim B. is right though. In the Catholic Church, the liturgical season of Christmas runs from December 25 until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 13.