happy 2nd day of christmas! know what i can’t understand? people who take their christmas decorations down the day after christmas. don’t they realize that the christmas season has just begun??
so here’s the deal. the 12 days of christmas? no, it’s not a marketing ploy to rack up sales 12 days before christmas. it’s the liturgical christmas season between dec. 25 and jan. 6, the epiphany (you know, when the three kings* visited the baby jesus in bethlehem). unfortunately, all the hype for christmas happens a month before christmas, and the season itself is practically forgotten.
so, let’s take a look at how the christmas season plays out. before dec. 25? it’s actually advent, the time of waiting and preparing your heart for jesus. each sunday we get to light an additional candle on the advent wreath, purple, purple, pink, and purple, until christmas arrives. my friend melissa, a liturgist at a catholic church and sponsor of this post**, actually runs purple and pink ribbons on her tree until christmas, when she decorates it. i remember growing up on the tree farm and having one family come out on christmas eve to cut down their tree.
so what happens during the 12 days of christmas besides a very rich lover sending you a bunch of birds? here’s what we’ve got for the 12 days of christmas:
The first day is Christmas, the celebration of baby jesus’ birth. it’s also a day you traditionally give your loved one a partridge in a pear tree.
The second day is Boxing Day and is also known as St Stephen’s Day. he was the first christian martyr. and two turtle doves.
The third day celebrates St John the Apostle. three calling birds.
The fourth day is the Feast Of The Holy Innocents – the day when people remember all of the baby boys who were killed by King Herod in his search to kill the Baby Jesus. four french hens!
The fifth day is remembering St Thomas Becket – he was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th Century and was killed on December 29 1170 for challenging the King’s authority over the church. fiiiiiive goooooldeeeeen riiiiiiiings
The sixth day remembers St Egwin of Worcester, who died on December 30 717. he was known as the protector of orphans and the widowed. six swans a swimming.
The seventh day (New Year’s Eve) celebrates Pope Sylvester I. In some eastern European countries New Year’s Eve is still known as Silvester. seven geese a laying.
The eighth day (New Year’s Day) celebrates Mary the Mother of Jesus. (this is also a holy day of obligation, which TOTALLY BLOWS when you’re up all night revelrying. eight maids a milking.
The ninth day honors St Basil the Great and St Gregory Nazianzen – two important fourth century Christians. nine ladies dancing.
The tenth day is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – this marks the day Jesus was named in the Jewish Temple. ten lords a leaping.
The eleventh day celebrates the Feast of Saint Simeon Stylites who spent 37 years living on a small platform on top of a pillar in Aleppo. (WHAT ON EARTH. this might need some more research.) eleven pipers.
The twelfth day, January 5, is also known as Epiphany Eve – it’s the day before January 6 which is known as the Epiphany. 12 drummers drumming.
many countries in europe still celebrate the 12 days, but in the US it’s practically forgotten. once dec. 25 rolls around, it’s sayanora christmas.
what i’d like to start doing? i wouldn’t mind celebrating christmas like hannukah is celebrated. each night get a small present or do something fun, with the big party on ephiphany (which makes total sense since that’s when the kings came with their GIFTS). OR, for those families who have multiple christmas parties and people to exchange gifts with, why not do it during the 12 days FOLLOWING christmas, during the actual season?
i know that the retail marketing has got us all hyped up and wound up and grabbed by our wallets, but it wouldn’t take much to make the christmas season part of how we celebrate christmas. and i’ve said it before: i wouldn’t mind seeing more off-color christmas celebrations become more mainstream. like actual caroling, or something equivalent to trick or treating. or krampus (hee heeeee!). i feel like christmas has gotten too ooey gooey and blown out of proportion and saccharine.
*or two, if you’re the kings at my mom’s house. one got beheaded for coming out of the closet (hannah was playing “kissy kissy” with two kings, and being ceramic, one broke.)
**(she says not to take her too seriously. i had to school her on what the triduum*** was her first year as a liturgist.)
*** the three days before easter: holy thursday, good friday, and holy saturday.