I had a note from a reader about the need to do penance on this coming Friday, which is the Octave of Christmas.
The short answer is NO.
Why? Because according to Canon Law, Catholics are bound to do penance on Fridays of the year except when the Friday is of the liturgical rank of a “Solemnity” (a new-fangled post-Conciliar rank). Even if you prefer the traditional calendar, wherein 1 January is the Octave of Christmas (olim Circumcision), you can avail yourself of the law as it is here and now in the 1983 Code. In the new-fangled calendar, 1 January is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. As a Solemnity it takes away the obligation of penance on Friday.
HOWEVER… that will not be the case for every Friday in the Octave of Christmas. THIS YEAR, the Friday is the Octave and it is 1 January. This year.
NB: The Octave of Christmas does not have the liturgical “weight” of the Octave of Easter. Easter Friday outweighs the penance thing, but Christmas Friday does not.
Note can. 1251 in the 1983 Code.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Friday in the Octave of Christmas is not a liturgical solemnity as it is in the Easter Octave. Hence, we are usually obliged to do penance today, Friday in the Octave. Not in 2020.
Remember, you can ask your parish priest to dispense you or commute acts of penance.
Can. 1245 Without prejudice to the right of diocesan bishops mentioned in can. 87, for a just cause and according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop, a pastor [parish priest] can grant in individual cases a dispensation from the obligation of observing a feast day or a day of penance or can grant a commutation of the obligation into other pious works. A superior of a religious institute or society of apostolic life, if they are clerical and of pontifical right, can also do this in regard to his own subjects and others living in the house day and night.
Members of religious communities and third orders should consult their own regulations and review to whom they turn for dispensations.
Also, you can substitute another form of penance for abstaining from meat. Make it penitential, however. Abstinence from meat has good reasoning behind it. For some, however, there abstinence from other things can be of greater spiritual effect.
Also, it may be that some local places have exceptions in their calendars. For example, if some year Friday falls on Holy Innocents, or St. Thomas Becket, and you belong to Holy Innocents parish or St. Thomas Becket parish, then Friday will be your patronal feast.
Also, perhaps your conference of bishops made another ruling. I believe that is the case for England and Wales.