RENEW: Rediscovering the Twelve Days of Christmas
Something worse than a war on Christmas has been lapping at the heart and soul of the Christian church for many decades. It is an acid tinged liquid that burns away the real things of value in this season of glad tidings good will and peace on earth. This persistent current of decay comes from the influences of a materialism that has crept into the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ that leaves people feeling empty once the gifts are unwrapped. The joy of the season comes, not from reliving the greatest gift of all time in Jesus Christ, but in “stuff”. We too often equate the amount of “stuff” with the level of our joy. The culture of economics has been allowed to drive this season and as a result it has become more secular, material and unsatisfying.
It is tine to strip the decades of misuse and abuse from the time when the Christian Church celebrates something that the world often simply cannot understand. Like the sisters of Cinderella who chopped off parts of their feet in order to fit the glass slipper, the Church has accepted what the world has had to say about Christmas. We have chopped off the sacred elements, modified the scope of the time, and tried to fit ourselves into the world's glass slipper of "Christmas."
Traditionally, the 12 Days of Christmas were celebrated beginning with day after Christmas, or December 26. Then, counting began, and it ended with the celebration of the Wise Men bringing gifts to the Christ Child (usually around Jan. 6). The period from January through the start of Lent is commonly known as the "Season of Epiphany".
Day 1 – Family
The day after Christmas (Dec. 26) use this time to focus on the family both near and far. Create traditions and activities that build your family unit, however, you define that unit. Maybe it is lounging around in your pajamas and watching your favorite movies; maybe it is working on family history; maybe it is reading to each other selections from favorite books over a cup of fragrant tea. Whatever it is, do it with joy, do it together, and make memories.
Day 2 – Service
As a family unit, volunteer to serve in a mission, delivery meals, shovel snow, check on the shut-ins in your area. There are so many other projects that create memories and model the values your family holds hear.
Day 3 – Devotion
Pick a theme scripture for the year, learn about it, understand it by discussion and then return to it through the year. It need not be a dull spiritual endeavor either. Make this devotional time come to life by making it an active time. Try creating a memorial stone for your yard, a piece of art to which each person contributes, or something similar. Place it somewhere prominent as a reminder for the year.
Day 4 – Games & Play
“The family that plays together-stays together” is more than a mere slogan. Play generates bonding, encourages teamwork, inspires laughter, and is fun! Keep the competitions to a minimum and encourage participation and laughter. Parent Fun has many clever game and activity ideas. See also P & G Everyday for ideas across many topics.
Day 5 – Music
An afternoon or evening of family music is a great tradition to start. A great way to encourage musical appreciation, practice skills with various instruments, and just have fun singing along with favorite tunes. Make it a weekly event to enrich your year's theme and move the quality of life from endless hours of television to making memories and drawing people together around a common interest.
Day 6 – Service
Do something for someone else. Surprise a friend or relative with a task completed for them. Volunteer as a family to help with a local charity or mission work outreach. Put together disaster kits, homeless hygiene supply bags, clean up a park, or something similar to meet a need.
Day 7 – Exploration
Pack a backpack and go for a walk (weather permitting); go explore the different styles of architecture in your community, learn about your town by finding the historic points of interest; take a nature walk; look at the stars; explore a science museum. Find a museum nearby by using the Museum association website.
Day 8 – Art
Everybody grabs a drawing pad, works in clay, paints, or creates something using some form of art. Maybe make something for a handmade gift. Families with small children may find the ideas at Child Fun useful as well as Artful parents.
Day 9 – Learning
Visit a museum, go to the library, fill out your family tree, visit a ethnic or cultural space and learn about something never before explored. Encourage children to learn by retelling what they learned or saw, do a “advertisement” on the visit and what they learned or draw a poster. Older youth can participate in discussions about what was learned and make connections through comparisons and contrasts.
Day 10 – Friends
Spend time with friends. The family can go their separate ways to visit and enjoy time with friends building positive relationships to last a lifetime. Here are some great ideas for adults and teens to use in developing and strengthening friends.
Day 11 – Family
Spend the day with the family, doing things for one another and end with a favorite’s meal and handmade gift exchange. Some clever and not so ordinary ideas can be found here.
Day 12 – Celebration
Gather with friends to top off the 12 Days through celebrations, singing, devotionals, and similar activities designed to remind of the theme the family chose for their year and to remind all of the strength and gift good family and friends make to life. Go to church or meeting and share the joy of the season in a brand new way and look forward as you continue your journey through the Christian year with new zest and meaning.
---Marilyn A. Hudson, c2014