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Ready for the Second Day of Christmas?

Wait, what? Isn’t Christmas over? Didn’t we manage to survive (some of us just barely) and now we can look forward to the New Year and resolutions that won’t last the month of January? Why in the world would I still be talking about Christmas?

Because “The Twelve Days of Christmas” actually refers to something real; it isn’t just a wacky song*. And it’s not the 12 days leading up to Christmas, whatever the retailers tell you. It’s 12 days beginning with December 25 and going through January 5th (Twelfth Night!) followed by The Feast of Epiphany. This is a great article on the history and current practice of celebrating this season.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Now before you get mad and throw ornaments at me, let me explain why celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas after going through the whole rigamarole leading up to Christmas is a good, fun, and spiritually useful thing.

First, you probably already mark some of the traditions. Today is actually the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. It’s typically a day dedicated to service to the poor since Stephen was one of the seven deacons appointed to make sure that all the widows got fed. It’s also celebrated as Boxing Day in a few countries, which is also a time to give to the poor. Even those of us who don’t have formal traditions — for tax reasons or religious reasons or just because it’s what we do — this is the time when we look beyond our needs and wants to those who have less or need more than us.

I don’t tend a church that follows a Church Calendar or is very liturgical, but our family does mark the 12 days of Christmas and the Feast of Epiphany. (Although, as Dr. Sproul says, every church has a liturgy, i.e. an order of service. Some just tend to be a little more organized and formal than others. Or a lot.) If Advent is the season to prepare our hearts and homes for the coming of Christ, then this is the season to rejoice in his coming and to think (and act) on the consequences coming. “Joy to the World, the Lord has come!” Now what?

During this time we are still very much in the Christmas season, in fact, it feels more “Christmasy” to me than the frantic, over-scheduled, too many dang parties, events, and obligation time before Christmas day. All the schools are deep into their (brief) winter hibernation, the office “winter parties” with their irritating obligations are complete, the worship leader is lying huddled in the fetal position under his own tree, and there’s no one demanding we do all the things. For two weeks, we don’t have to be anywhere. Not just anywhere extra, but (almost) anywhere at all. So this is the time we do all those fun things that we couldn’t fit in because of schedules and crowds; things like looking at lights, visit the train exhibit at the mall, watching Christmas movies, and playing games.

It’s also a quieter time and allows a little more reflection. These are holidays that feel holy and set apart. We need time and space and quiet to appreciate peace on earth, none of which are in abundance in the hustle and bustle before Christmas Day. Because it also encompasses New Years Day, these few days also seem to include those “big picture” questions of where we’re going and where we’ve been and what kind of crazy journey does God have us on anyway. In other words, it’s the perfect time to ask “Now what?”

So before you put up your tree and take down your lights, take some time to rest in the lingering glow of Christmas, without all the demands of December 25, but with all the meaning and beauty of the season.

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First, for the kids and the kids at heart, Phineas and Ferb!

Straight No Chaser’s version is probably the most well known current novelty variation.

But probably my favorite fun version is Natalie Cole, because what were those people thinking? Six geese alaying. Geese are nasty.


*No, there is no evidence that the song was actually a code for a persecuted minority to teach the truth about their religion, neither persecuted Protestants nor persecuted Catholics, though they each persecuted the heck out of each other from time to time. A little careful thinking will tell you this is unlikely. The symbolism is supposed to mean things like the two testaments, the Trinity, and the four gospels. In addition to it being a really bad mnemonic device, neither Catholics nor Protestants are opposed to those things being taught. If you want to talk about the nature of Communion (or the Eucharist) or the authority of the Pope, well then things get more interesting. But those things generally aren’t included in the (totally made up) lists I’ve seen.

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