I was never able to fathom just why the ancient Feast of the Circumcision, a surgical ceremony accompanying the official naming of a male child traditionally celebrated, as the Gospel of Luke set out, eight days after his birth, was changed from a Feast of the Christ to one for his mother. The Feast named for the Circumcision can be traced back to the 6th century. In the Orthodox Church, some Protestant traditions, and the Anglican Church, it is still observed under that name.
By the Middle Ages, January 1 was recognized as the feast of the Jewishness of Jesus, born as he was, St. Paul tells us, “under the Law.” It was also celebrated as the memorial of the first blood shed for humankind by Jesus, just an infant, like the babies just a bit older who were about to shed their blood, all unknowingly, for him. The change came during the revision of the liturgy under Pope John XXIII and was incorporated into the official calendar in 1962. The readings were altered, and the possibly embarrassing physiological aspect was covered over modestly. I don’t recall there having been protests, but I sometimes wonder if some latent anti-Semitism resided deep within the decision to depart from many centuries of liturgical tradition. Or was it merely squeamishness?
Mary was never overlooked in the early celebrations, and the Feast of the Purification is only a month away. She, too, was born under the Law. But the Octave Day of Christmas commemorated the birth of Jesus and the legal observances attendant on his ethnic identity. Perhaps we forget that too easily.
In any case, today Catholic Christians celebrate New Year’s Day by a feast honoring the Virgin Mary, that young Jewish girl whose consent to be the mother of Jesus changed the world forever. Mazel tov!