Christmas: January 1st
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, The Octave Day of Christmas
Previous Calendar: Octave of the Nativity of the Lord; Circumcision of Our Lord ; Other Titles: New Year’s Day
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, our Lady's greatest title. This feast is the Octave Day of Christmas. In the modern Roman Calendar only Christmas and Easter enjoy the privilege of an octave. According to the previous (1962) liturgical calendar, today is the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord, also known as the Circumcision of Our Lord. Note: While ordinarily a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States, this is not the case when the Solemnity falls on either Saturday or Monday."Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church's Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary. Mary is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the "Seat of Wisdom." — Catechism of the Catholic Church 721A plenary indulgence may be gained by reciting or singing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus on the first day of the year. This hymn is traditionally sung for beginnings of things, calling on the Holy Spirit before endeavoring something new.
The Apostle tells us: The Word took to himself the sons of Abraham, and so had to be like his brothers in all things. He had then to take a body like ours. This explains the fact of Mary’s presence: she is to provide him with a body of his own, to be offered for our sake. Scripture records her giving birth, and says: She wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Her breasts, which fed him, were called blessed. Sacrifice was offered because the child was her firstborn. Gabriel used careful and prudent language when he announced his birth. He did not speak of “what will be born in you” to avoid the impression that a body would be introduced into her womb from outside; he spoke of “what will be born from you” so that we might know by faith that her child originated within her and from her.By taking our nature and offering it in sacrifice, the Word was to destroy it completely and then invest it with his own nature, and so prompt the Apostle to say: This corruptible body must put on incorruption; this mortal body must put on immortality.This was not done in outward show only, as some have imagined. This is not so. Our Savior truly became man, and from this has followed the salvation of man as a whole. Our salvation is in no way fictitious, nor does it apply only to the body. The salvation of the whole man, that is, of soul and body, has really been achieved in the Word himself.What was born of Mary was therefore human by nature, in accordance with the inspired Scriptures, and the body of the Lord was a true body: It was a true body because it was the same as ours. Mary, you see, is our sister, for we are all born from Adam.The words of Saint John: The Word was made flesh, bear the same meaning, as we may see from a similar turn of phrase in Saint Paul: Christ was made a curse for our sake. Man’s body has acquired something great through its communion and union with the Word. From being mortal it has been made immortal; though it was a living body it has become a spiritual one; though it was made from the earth it has passed through the gates of heaven.Even when the Word takes a body from Mary, the Trinity remains a Trinity, with neither increase nor decrease. It is for ever perfect. In the Trinity we acknowledge one Godhead, and thus one God, the Father of the Word, is proclaimed in the Church. (Excerpted from a letter by St. Athanasius)
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Octave Day of Christmas - Day Eight
Although New Year's Day is not celebrated by the Church, this day has been observed as a Holy Day of Obligation since early times for this feast. Each family and country has different traditional foods to eat on New Year's Day, with lentils being the main superstition: ill luck befalling those who do not eat lentils at the beginning of the year.
New Year's is a day of traditional hospitality, visiting and good cheer, mostly with a secular view, but there is no reason that this day, too, could not be sanctified in Christ.