Friday, December 20, 2019

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Carrying Christmas in your heart all year long is a lovely thought, but what if the actual holiday lasted for more than a day? The good news is that it can if you celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas. The delightful period known as Christmastide (also Twelvetide or Christmas Time) spans from Christmas Day through Epiphany Eve (January 5th), or the period between the birth of Christ and the arrival of the three wise men bearing gifts for the newborn King.

Celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas is a beautiful way to focus your Christmas on Jesus. While a popular song about the twelve days of Christmas mentions daily gift-giving, the celebration is about so much more than swans a-swimming, golden rings, maids a-milking, or a partridge in a pear tree. It isn't even necessary to stretch out gift giving (unless you want to). You could, instead, celebrate the ancient feasts of Christmas that occur during this period. Doing this has given my family a new understanding of the breadth and depth of our Savior's love.

The Ancient Feasts of Christmas

Other Christmas feast occur outside Christmastide. St. Nicholas Day and Santa Lucia Day are better-known examples. For a full listing, read The Feasts of Christmas at my website. We'll cover in this post only those feasts that occur between Christmas and Epiphany.

The First Day of Christmas (December 25th): Christmas Day needs no introduction. On this day each year, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah and Savior of the world. Ways to center your thoughts on that wondrous fact are to pray before opening gifts, bake a birthday cake for Jesus, and sing Christmas carols. Christmas reminds me of God's joyful abundance.

The Second Day of Christmas (December 26th): the Feast of Stephen was mentioned in the carol, "Good King Wenceslas," when a king had mercy on a peasant. The Apostle Stephen cared for the poor, so it makes sense that people still give to the poor on his feast day. There's nothing quite like leaving your warm home and braving the elements to take food to the local food bank the day after Christmas. The Feast of Stephen takes me beyond my own wants and needs and lets me share in God's generosity to the less fortunate.

The Third Day of Christmas(December 27th): the Feast of John the Apostle is a good day to remember God's special love for us with a toast of  Saint John’s love, a mulled wine from which the alcohol is boiled away or, if you prefer, mulled cider. Taking a moment to reflect on God's amazing love for mankind infuses depths of meaning into Christmas.

The Fourth Day of Christmas (December 28th): Childermas, or the Feast of the Holy Innocents remembers the firstborns sons put to death by Herod in a failed attempt to destroy Baby Jesus. Thinking of this loss of innocent life, which foreshadowed Jesus laying down his life to save me makes his sacrifice personal. At Childermas, I consider the magnitude of the sacrifice God made to save my soul. 

The Fifth Day of Christmas (December 29th): the Feast of Thomas Becket is in honor of the bishop of Canterbury, martyred on this day in 1170. His struggle against wickedness in high places echoes the battle Jesus fought to deliver us all from the tyranny of sin. On this feast day, I celebrate the freedom my Savior won for me.

The Sixth Day of Christmas (December 30th): the Feast of Egwin of Worcester, remembers a sixth-century bishop celebrated for protecting widows and orphans and for his devotion to purity. I believe in learning from the examples of those who lived honorable lives. On this day, I consider what I can do to ease the lives of widows and orphans, review the ten commandments in Exodus, chapter 20. and read the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-10). 

The Seventh Day of Christmas (December 31th): the Feast of Sylvester/Silvester ushers out the old year. Not much is known nowadays about this feast's namesake, a fourth-century pope who was thought to have been slain by a dragon. His feast day predated a change to the Gregorian calendar that moved the end of the year to this day. Even so, in Brazil, Germany, and other countries, end-of-the-year celebrations bear Sylvester's name. This is a good day to assess the passing year and look forward with friends and family to the new year.

The Eighth Day of Christmas (January 1st): the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ commemorates the Jewish custom of circumcising an infant on the eighth day after birth. Circumcision symbolizes separation to God. On this day, I read Luke 2: 21 and examine my heart before God.

The Ninth Day of Christmas (January 2nd): the Feast of Basil the Great brings in a bit of levity with raisins baked in a loaf of bread called a vassilopita in lieu of the gold coins that were once used. The coins represented Basil's generosity in giving to the poor. This feast day is another reminder and opportunity to give to others in need.   

The Tenth Day of Christmas (January 3rd): the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus celebrates Jesus's official naming in the Jewish temple. The Bible tells us that an angel first spoke the name to Mary when visiting her before Jesus's conception. This is a day to savor a sweet dessert and reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ name, "God Saves.” 

The Eleventh Day of Christmas (January 4th): the Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton honors the memory of a 19th-century woman who cared for the poor, including orphans and widows. This is a day to follow her example and think of others. In this, we emulate Jesus.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas (January 5th): Twelfth Night (or Epiphany Eve) was historically a riotous occasion. A Twelfth Night party in England might include a cake with a bean baked into it. Whoever discovered the bean could wear a paper crown and rule over the madcap celebration. Twelfth night is the traditional time to take the Christmas tree down. The branches were burned in a bonfire, a ceremony that signaled the end of Christmastide. 

The festivities don’t end here, however. Dawn would bring Epiphany, the culmination of Christamastide and the beginning of Epiphanytide. Ah, but that's a topic for another time.

About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and whimsy creates breathtaking fictional worlds for readers. Janalyn is a storyteller who writes medieval epic fantasy, western historical fiction, and romantic mystery/suspense.

Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary Agency. When she's not writing, she loves to discover worlds of adventure in the great outdoors with her family.

Escape into fictional worlds at Janalyn Voigt's website!

New Release! The Forever Sky

Can a young widow with no faith in love, hope for a future with the man who broke her heart?
Maisey isn’t about to give Rob another chance to reject her love. Why should she believe that the man who left town without a backward glance three years ago cares about her? Life had taught her all about broken dreams, and she didn’t want to hope again. If only her young daughter would stop adopting Rob as a father, ignoring him—and her own emotions--would be a whole lot easier.

Thoughts of the woman he’d left behind haunted Rob for three long years. It wouldn’t have been fair to ask Maisey to wait while he mined a gold claim. After making his fortune, he’d returned to his family in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Rob was ready to settle down, and he’d rather do so with Maisey. But after their first encounter, it was clear that he’d lost her forever.

Circumstances force Maisey and Rob into one another’s company. They learn, through hardship and loss, that the only way to one another is to surrender first to God’s love.

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, The Forever Sky explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

1 comment:

  1. I'd never seen the Twelve Days spelled out like this, thank you for that!