By Cammie Jones
Do you ever feel you are riding an endless merry-go-round from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day? The holiday season can be a time of frenzied activity. The days vanish before our bleary eyes have had time to refocus. Well, maybe it is time for a different approach to the season. This year, I would like to share a meaningful celebration of Christmas from a local pastor using the song, The 12 Days of Christmas, as a guide.
Roger Speer, Director of Students Ministries at Church of the Good Shepherd (www.rogerspeer.com), has begun a movement that allows families to celebrate Christmas for an entire season instead of one single day. “This approach encompasses the entirety of the 12 days of Christmas, teaches something about our faith on each day, and stretches the gift-giving from a single day to a week and a half festival of joy and celebrating each other,” he says. According to vox.com, the 12 days of Christmas denotes the time between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, or the three wise men. It begins on December 25th (Christmas Day) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes called Three Kings’ Day).
According to Speer, here is how the celebration breaks down:
December 25: A Partridge in a Pear Tree
Jesus is the partridge. This first day is a time to remember the birth of Jesus. The pear tree symbolizes His sacrifice on the cross. Explain to your children that in celebration of Jesus being born, we also remember how he died for us, which was quite the gift.
Gift idea: give something that brings joy or happiness.
December 26: Two Turtle Doves
The turtle doves represent the first and second testaments of the Bible. Turtle doves were a type of pigeon that nearly everyone, rich or poor, could afford. This calls to mind that the Bible is for everyone.
Gift idea: a book or a Bible. You could emboss a name on it for a special touch.
December 27: Three French Hens
Among various interpretations, Speer chose three French hens as the gifts of Faith, Hope and Love to define this day.
Gift idea: something of meaning that symbolizes faith, hope or love. A family photo that is framed or a book of daily devotions would be perfect ideas.
December 28: Four Calling Birds
The original song lyrics were “four colly birds.” Colly meant black. So, it could be thought of as four blackbirds or ravens. When a raven caws, you hear it, just as the Gospel calls out for each of us to hear it.
Gift idea: give a gift that reminds your family member or friend to put the Bible’s word into action. This can be symbolized with a garden tool to start a garden, a piece of exercise equipment or clothing to start a new fitness program or any other idea that relates to action.
December 29: Five Gold Rings
The five golden rings are the most valuable of gifts in the original song. This is also where the song lyrics take a dramatic pause. On a religious level, the rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament, or the Pentateuch. These books are the history and law given by God to Moses.
Gift idea: a nostalgic or symbolic gift. This can be a family heirloom once belonging to a grandparent or other family member, a gold piece of jewelry, a gold watch or something gold.
December 30: Six Geese a Laying
The geese laying represents creating a new life as God created all things.
Gift idea: something that will spark creativity. This can be art supplies or art classes, to a gift certificate for learning a new hobby.
December 31: Seven Swans a Swimming
Swans are graceful water creatures. The number seven represents the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
Gift idea: a gift that increases wisdom or understanding. A day trip or vacation to a new place that will increase knowledge or understanding of the world. Attending or watching an event virtually like the ballet, symphony or theater can also broaden cultural understanding and be a fun new experience.
January 1: Eight Maids a Milking
A milking cow is working. But the rewards of this work are sweet. Look to the beatitudes here as this is how God wants us to treat others.
Gift idea: help a neighbor or an organization. Random acts of kindness fit here. Now is your chance to take the opportunity you’ve been too busy to take by helping someone in need.
January 2: Nine Ladies Dancing
Nine ladies dancing represent the nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When your life displays the fruits of the spirit, you become a wonderful expression of action and grace to others.
Gift idea: give a handmade gift. Use your God-given talent to make a heartfelt gift. A painting, a plate of homemade cookies, a flower arrangement or anything that reflects your hard work and unique skill is a meaningful gift for this day.
January 3: Ten Lords a Leaping
These Lords refer to the English Parliament’s House of Lords. They were lawmakers so this loosely symbolizes the Ten Commandments. As for why the Lords are leaping, Speer suggests that maybe a higher law given by God could make them leap?!
Gift idea: give a game that the family can all enjoy that includes rules just as the Ten Commandments are good guidelines to live by.
January 4: Eleven Pipers Piping
Pipers were known for music that relaxed people. They also led people in marches during the Middle Ages. These 11 pipers represent the apostles of Jesus (minus Judas) who led the way for Jesus’ teaching around the world.
Gift idea: a gift of music. A concert, an iTunes gift card, sheet music, music CDs/records or a new pair of headphones will work for this day.
January 5: 12 Drummers Drumming
Drummers keep people in line and stepping in unison, all with the same rhythm. The Apostles’ Creed acts as a rhythmic reminder of beliefs. With 12 main points in the creed, it is a powerful statement of faith.
Gift idea: this last gift can be something powerful. It can be a special gift that your loved one is hoping to receive. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should reflect a meaningful or powerful statement.
As my children get older, this is a thoughtful way to take the focus away from just one day of frenzied family and social obligations surrounding gift exchanges. This exercise helps us slow down and reflect on the season extending past Christmas Day. I wonder if 2020 could have a spectacular ending, one we are all searching for, if we slow down and take time to imagine it!