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The 12 Days of Christmas

Happy Christmas all!

Although it seems in our culture we have been celebrating since the day after Halloween, Christmas just began yesterday on December 25!  I treasure our season of Advent, a time of preparation and anticipation for the coming of Christ and the celebration of the birth of love and hope in this world.  But I also treasure these days of Christmas, sinking into its meaning and cherishing the moments with family and friends and examining how in my life I will live God’s gift of love in the world.  

For me, taking down the Christmas decorations before the season is over is a no-no, although Ian will give me the nudge to take the tree down if it becomes a safety hazard. Taking the time to mark and honour these holy seasons is important, rushing through means we miss the beauty and the wonder that surrounds.

Through Advent, I enjoyed hearing how folks used “the Mason Jar Advent,” tags that encouraged different actions of love and grace, dinner conversation starters to build community and some social media starters that encouraged focusing on the meaning of the season.  For the season of Christmas, I often offer some activities and reflections to do each day. Here are some ideas to help remind us that Christmas isn’t just one day but a season of 12 days:

December 25 – Read the story of the Angels visit to the shepherds and think about who are the messengers of hope and joy in your life?

December 26 – Sing a favorite Christmas Carol.  What special message do the words have for you today?

December 27 –  Pick up the phone and talk to someone you have not talked to in a long while.

December 28 – Take some food to the food bank.  Hunger doesn’t go on holidays.

December 29 –  Place your Christmas cards in a basket and begin a tradition of each night of picking a card and praying for the person who sent it.

December 30 – Make a New Year’s card for someone.  Sharing your hopes and prayers for them for the new year!

December 31 – think about creating a Grateful Jar.  A jar or a bowl, that each day in the new year you write something you are grateful for. And then on New Year’s Eve 2019, read, reflect and remember on all the gratitude through the year.

January 1 – Take time to think about and share with someone a special goal or activity that you would like to undertake in this new year – one that will help bring God’s vision of love and hope to this world.

January 2 – Read Luke’s story of Jesus as a child found in Luke 2:41-52.  What do you imagine Jesus was like as a child?

January 3 – Write a thank you note to someone who is not usually thanked for what they do!

January 4 – Bake (or buy) and deliver a treat to first responders.  Or take some flowers?

January 5 – Go for a walk in your neighbourhood and notice God’s presence in the handiwork of creation.   

January 6 –  This is the celebration of God’s light in the world and of the visit of the magi.  Light a candle and read Isaiah 60:1-3 and Matthew 2:1-12. How can you bring light to one person’s life today?  Bake a King’s Cake to be shared tonight for dessert!

In closing, I leave you with a youtube video that has brought me some giggles.  It is of two youth ministers enacting the carol the 12 Days of Christmas. This carol, said to be written in 1780 or before, was believed to be designed as a ‘memory and forfeits game.’  The earliest known version first appeared in a children’s book called “Mirth With-out Mischief.”  There have been different variations of the lyrics including “bears a- bathing” and “ships a-sailing” before English composer, Frederic Austin, in 1909 set the melody and lyrics.  


Some of you will probably have also heard that the lyrics are references to Christianity and that the song was written to help Christians learn and pass on the tenets of their faith while avoiding persecution.  However, many have denied that logic because if they were trying to escape being persecuted for being a Christian why would they be singing a Christmas carol? William Studwell, the late historian, also made the point that “the breezy, bouncy nature of the tune hardly fits with the character of the church at that time.”  Even if it might not be true, it’s fun to include in a game of Christmas trivia. Check out the list:

1 Partridge in a Pear Tree = Jesus Christ

2 Turtle Doves = Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (Old and New Testaments)

3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels

5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch,” the Torah

6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation

7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit

8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes

9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments

11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles

12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed


May these days of Christmas gift you with some spaciousness to ponder and reflect on the love and hope in your lives and the love and hope that is you!

God’s blessings!  See you in Epiphany!



Comments (5)

  1. Jen, what a genteel expression of what Christmas is or can be to many people in (and of) different situations in life, offering some practical and beautiful ideas on how we can let the spirit of Christmas flow and enrich … energize (“bless” — saturating the earth, the universe with positive, creative {holy!} energy). Thanks a trillion!

  2. Jen – the video is wonderful – I giggled the whole way through! Thank you for sharing. I cherish this peaceful Christmas time. Bless you and your family.

  3. Thank you so much for the link to the 12 Days video, Jen! It’s hilarious! I’d love to try to act it out with a partner next Christmas season!

  4. I love that you made a point of stating that Christmas begins on the 25th, it does not end on the 25th.
    Thank you for the focus for the next 12 days of Christmas. I will enjoy this time – – part of my contemplative practise.

  5. Thank you, Jen for this lovely piece. I have had such a blessed Christmas (much of which has included attending the STAW’s services and bathing in the warmth of light and love so generously offered there). The sharing with my family was more well, mature and kind than ever and the sharing with friends of many Christmas gatherings was magical. I have been feeling sad that it is all over, but your writing has inspired me to look deeper into the meaning of Christmas and to have the season in a different way, after Dec. 25.
    In Gratitude….

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