Our family has been celebrating the 12 days of Christmas for quite a few years. Every year I get asked about it and rather than writing a new post saying the same things I am re-sharing a post I did a few years ago. Later this week I will talk about the practical aspect to celebrating this way.
Repairing the ruins.
That’s a phrase commonly heard in our reformed classical circles as it relates to taking back the way we educate our children. As I’ve been thinking through writing this blog post in response to some questions I’ve gotten about how our family celebrates Christmas I realized it’s a rather fitting phrase for more than just classical education.
The truth is that our job as Christians is to be continually at work repairing the ruins. Now obviously we cannot ignore the truth that through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ God has put all things back to rights. But neither can we ignore that we live in the now and not yet-ness of what God has done, is doing, and will do. Or that we have been giving the joyful task of joining Him in that work.
One of the smallest but biggest changes our family has made in recent years is aligning our lives more closely with the Church calendar which functions along the life of Christ. So in one sense we are currently marking the start of the new year as we celebrate Advent even as we recognize the close of the traditional calendar.
Practicing Advent each year was the starting point for us and then we also started looking for ways to change how we celebrate the birth of Christ. I was familiar with the “12 days of Christmas” but always as a time leading up to Christmas, not marking time from His birth to the time traditionally celebrating Epiphany, the arrival of the wise men.
This is important because for most of the western mainstream church the 25th of December is the climax of weeks long anticipation but December 26th doesn’t mean much. Or the 27th, the 28th, and so on. Of course January 1st is marked but then life collapses back into normal until months later when Easter Sunday is celebrated. But there is so much more.
Marking the 12 days leading up to Epiphany means we are celebrating and marking the glorious Truth that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It’s not just about spiritualizing the holiday as a way of rejecting the commercializing of the one real Holy day most of us agree is actually holy. It’s twelve days of commemorating the greatest gift ever given…God Himself taking on human form and becoming one of us.
There is no Biblical command to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas so not doing so is certainly no sin. And that also means that each family is free to set up their 12 days as they see fit. Our days have evolved and changed over the years with some days becoming set in stone staples and other days being flexible and changing from year to year. The important thing is that we are working to restore the glory of a world changing event that the enemy has sought to tear down and bury under a pile of cheap spit and shine made up thrill meant to distract from the thrill of hope that causes a weary world to rejoice.
Tomorrow I will share some of the ways we celebrate the 12 days but let me give a few highlights we’ve found in this process. First, the fact that it is spread out means that although there is significant planning (I mean we have five children so I have to kind of have my act together) it doesn’t all happen on one day. Less pressure. Less stress.
Which brings me to point number two and one that we really like…hello after Christmas sales! You can take advantage of some major deals.
And third I think our children, and us adults for that matter, can enjoy and savor the time more because it isn’t hitting us in the face at a breakneck pace. It’s lost the overwhelmingness that sometimes comes with major events that leaves us feeling limp, exhausted and slightly underwhelmed because of the momentous days and days of lead up.
An added benefit that we have enjoyed more and more as the years have gone by and others have joined us in marking the 12 days is the sense of community it brings. There are certain activities that we enjoy during this time that are enriched because we share them with friends.
The important thing to remember whether you celebrate one day or twelve is well summed up by Jeff Smith, the Frugal gourmet guy:
“…on our own, Christmas does not work. It is not the tree, or the dinner or the planning, or the weather, or the relatives that make the Mass of Christ. It is the Child. Come to the manager and be amazed…”