Depending on where you live (or more precisely where you shop), it's been Christmas since October. As soon as the trick-or-treating is over, the Halloween decorations come down and the Christmas stuff goes up. If you're slow, you might wait until Thanksgiving. I suppose this isn't all bad. All things considered, the world could use a little bit of the Christmas spirit throughout the year.
I say that now, but the day after Christmas, it will seem like Christmas never came, unless you're returning unwanted Christmas gifts or buying what you wanted with the gift cards you received. That's because it's more about shopping, buying, and getting; than celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
After December 25, the only place you'll hear a Christmas carol or see Christmas decorations is in church. Why? Because the commercial world has forgotten when Christmas really is.
Here's a technical layout to the Christmas season and all the feast days within it. The Christmas season formally begins on the evening of December 24, and continues for 2-3 weeks until the Baptism of the Lord (January 13 for 2013). The Octave of Christmas starts on Christmas Day and concludes on January 1, the Solemnity of Mary. The Sunday during the Octave is dedicated to the Holy Family (unless it falls on January 1). The Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated the following Sunday (transferred from January 6 in the United States and several other countries if January 6 is not a Sunday). The Baptism of the Lord is the last Sunday of the season (moved to the Monday after Epiphany Sunday when the Epiphany is later on January 7 or 8).
Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Christmas until December 25. I just prefer to keep things real and use Advent as the preparatory time it was intended to be, then honoring Christmas with all the celebration during the proper time. Otherwise, Christmas can feel like it's getting old a few days into it, when we're really just getting started!
So a big BOO to all the places that decorate for Christmas in November, then rip everything down on December 26. Three CHEERS for places that put up the creche or manger seen in December, and wait until Christmas to add the newborn Jesus. YAY for all the people that host their Christmas parties through mid-January. BOO for all the people buying Valentine's Day stuff on December 26.
If you want Christmas to last longer, then don't celebrate it until December 25, and keep on celebrating it till it's over! Don't worry shoppers, you can still have your black Friday sales- just don't call it Christmas shopping. It's the Vatican that says when Christmas is, not the retailers!
I'll conclude with some Catholic cocktail party talk for you. The commercialization of the holiday has people believing that the Twelve Days of Christmas (as in the song) ends on Christmas Day. The song actually refers to the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany on January 6, traditionally known as Christmastide.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!