This year it suddenly sort of hit me that it makes so much sense to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas up to Epiphany. I think it sort of stemmed initially from reading a great kids’ sermon a friend wrote that aligned the end of Mary’s pregnancy with Advent, using that waiting time before birth as an analogy for the quiet waiting of Advent until Jesus’s birth at Christmas. So I just sort of thought… then that’s it? We did this beautiful Christmas season of waiting for Christ to be born, then we celebrate for one day? It suddenly made more sense to me that we would have a long and awesome celebration for such a monumentous occasion, and I don’t know why we don’t. I feel like this is something I should start doing with my family.
Back in the day when everyone was Catholic (or maybe if you still are? I’m not, so not sure.) people did celebrate for 12 days following Christmas (like the song, yo). Apparently it’s called “Christmastide.” How cool is that?! Then it ends with Twelfth Night and there’s The Feast of Epiphany after that, on January 6th, which I believe is the day the Wisemen showed up to see baby Jesus. (“Oh, thanks for the gold and frankinsence, but don’t worry too much about the myrrh next time.” Couldn’t help myself.)
Here’s some stuff from Wikipedia:
The traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas have been largely forgotten in the United States. Contributing factors include the popularity of stories by Charles Dickens in nineteenth-century America (with their emphasis on generous gift-giving), introduction of more secular traditions over the past two centuries (such as the American Santa Claus), and the rise in popularity of New Year’s Eve parties. The first day of Christmas actually terminates the Christmas marketing season for merchants, as shown by the number of “after-Christmas sales” that launch on 26 December. The commercial calendar has encouraged an erroneous assumption that the Twelve Days end on Christmas Day and must therefore begin on 14 December.
Celebrants observing the Twelve Days may give gifts on each of them, with each day of the Twelve Days representing a wish for a corresponding month of the new year. They feast and otherwise celebrate the entire time through Epiphany morning. Lighting a candle for each day has become a modern tradition in the U.S. and of course singing the appropriate verses of the famous song each day is also an important and fun part of the American celebrations. Some also light a Yule Log on the first night (Christmas) and let it burn some each of the twelve nights. Some Americans have their own traditional foods to serve each night.
For some, Twelfth Night remains the biggest night for parties and gift-giving. Some households exchange gifts on the first (25 December) and last (5 January) days of the season. As in olden days, Twelfth Night to Epiphany morning is then the traditional time to take down the Christmas tree and decorations.
So starting next year I think I might try something with this. I’m thinking sort of how we might do an Advent Calendar and we have the Advent Candles, maybe one little thing a day for Christmastide. Like… a Christmastide Calendar. With little treats and scripture! Yeah.