12 days of Christmas

Culturally speaking, we celebrate both the feast day and the season of Christmas on December 25th. All gifts are given on this day, the family shares a meal, and other traditions are upheld. “Christmas” ends on December 26th if we use this tradition. I would like to suggest that you use a different method to celebrate the season of Christmas.
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. It can even guide you in choosing what gifts you give to your loved ones. Each day of the Christmas season represents a Christian teaching and offers a theme for each present.
Gifts could be given before dinner, after a blessing is said. They could also be given after dinner. Or they could be given at the morning meal each day.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a carol that has its roots in 18th century Europe. It is a secular song that celebrates Christmas with whimsical imagery. However, when put it side by side with another, older song called “A New Dial” (also known as “In Those 12 Days”), we can use it to guide our Christmas season with an intentional focus on our faith lives.

For the purposes of prolonging the Christmas Celebration into the whole season, we are using some creative license to reform something old into something new.

In the song, “our true love” is actually God.  Each of the gifts represents one way in which God guides us daily.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

December 25, A Partridge in a Pear Tree

The partridge is Jesus himself. The First day of Christmas is December 25, and on this day me commemorate the birth of the Christ child. The pear tree is a reminder of his sacrifice on the cross for us. We should remember at the beginning how Jesus’ life ended, so that we might not take for granted the gift he gave to us.

Gift Idea: Give something that brings Joy to your loved ones. What is something that will cause delight and bring you together as a family for the day?

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

December 26, Two turtle doves

The two turtle doves represent the First and Second Testaments of the Bible.

Turtle doves are a type of pigeon, and used in the old testament as a sacrificial offering to God. Turtle doves were affordable by even the poorest people, which is symbolic that Holy Scripture is available to all people.
Dec 26th is also the Feast of St. Stephen, a day for giving the remains of the Major Feast of Christmas to the poor.

Gift Idea: While eating leftovers, give your loved ones a Book today. It can be any kind of book. Maybe today is also a good day to make a donation to your local shelter?

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

December 27, Three French Hens

There are numerous interpretations of the three French hens of this song.
We will use the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love. During this Christmas season, what gift would you choose to show someone your faith, hope, and love in them?
December 27th is also the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, the only one of the apostles to die a peaceful death, writer of the Gospel, and beloved of Jesus.

Gift Idea: Give something of profound Meaning that might increase your loved one’s faith, hope, and/or love.  What is a symbol that would let someone know they are beloved?  

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

December 28, Four Calling Birds

The four calling birds represent the four gospels. Interestingly, the original lyrics of the song are “four colly birds.” Colly is an old English word meaning coally, or black.

4 black birds. Four ravens. Four wise, mysterious books of the Bible.

If you have ever seen a raven, you’ll know why this is an important symbol of the gospels. When they caw, you hear it. In the same way, the Gospels call to you.
December 28th is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which commemorates the children killed by King Herod in his quest to find the Christ child.

Gift Idea: Give something that encourages your loved one to put the gospel into Action. New clothing? Tools? What benefits can you give them to increase their service to Christ and to their neighbor? Have you sent a gift to a child who has less than you yet?

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

December 29, Five Gold Rings

The most valuable of all the gifts in this old song, the five rings are also the thematic fulcrum of the music. For our purposes, the five rings represent the five books of the Pentateuch, the history and law given to Moses. These books contain the laws and stories from which Jesus taught: Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Gift Idea: As history and law books of the Bible, the 5 gold rings remind us of where we come from and why we are here. Gift your loved ones a gift today that teaches them of their History, family, or culture.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

December 30, Six Geese a Laying

Geese laying eggs are creating new life. They represent the six days in which God spoke into creation all things. 

Gift Idea: Give your loved one something that emboldens their Creativity. Art supplies? Tools? A kit to learn a new skill or craft?

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

December 31, Seven Swans a Swimming

As swans swim, they are graceful. As they ride on the water they are fully a part of it, yet separate from it. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to us to fully enter the world, yet rise above it.

The seven gifts of the spirit found in the book of Isaiah are:

Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord

Like a swan swimming, gifts of the Holy Spirit help us engage our world, while reminding us that we are meant to fly above it in heavenly places.

Gift Idea: Today, give your loved one something that increases their Wisdom, understanding, etc. Is it a class? An educational resource? An experience?

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

January 1, Eight Maids a Milking

Milking a cow is work. But the fruits of that labor are sweet and fulfilling. The beatitudes are the highest ideal of Jesus’ teachings, and are guideposts to how we are to treat others.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Gift Idea: The Beatitudes guide us in how we live our lives with our neighbors. They call us out into the world to do the work of the eight maids: the work of the Gospel spreading fulfillment and delight to all. Today, do the work for someone: a random act of kindness for a stranger, that job around the house you’ve been meaning to finish, something special for a loved one they wouldn’t have been able to do on their own.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

January 2, Nine Ladies Dancing

There are nine fruits of the spirit:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control

When you live your life in accord with the Holy Spirit, people will know you by how you act. Like dancing, this is something that must be practiced, but gives joy. When you are showing the fruits of the spirit, life is a joyful expression of action and grace

Gift Idea: Give your loved one something that is the fruit of hard work and a skill. Give them a gift that is Handmade, by you or by another. How can the fruit (consequences) of our actions be a gift to others?

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

January 3, Ten Lords a Leaping

The lords sung about in this line of text do not refer to nobility, but rather the House of Lords in the English Parliament. These men were law makers, and were used to being in authority. What on earth could make them leap?

A higher law given by God would make a Lord leap, and this line refers to the ten commandments, which are the law given by God to describe to us how we are to love God and love our neighbor.

You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not murder.
You shall not make idols.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
You shall not steal.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
You shall not bear false witness.
Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not covet.

Gift Idea: Give your family a Game that has rules. Play it together today.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

January 4, Eleven Pipers Piping

Putting aside the Pied Piper legend, we know that pipers had various duties in the Middle Ages. Most of them revolved round leading people in marches, and helping people relax with their music.

The eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful apostles, excluding Judas, who led the way for Jesus’ teaching to spread throughout the world. We are called to follow the apostles. We also remember to sit a moment and enjoy the moment, or get lost in a song.

Gift idea: Give your loved one new Music. Maybe you could introduce them to your favorite group? Maybe you could take them to experience live music?

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

January 5, Twelve Drummers Drumming

Like pipers, drummers kept units together. But where pipers set the pace, drummers kept people in line, stepping in unison, and all walking to the same rhythm. Likewise, the Apostle’s Creed gives us a guide to keep our faith in line. It defines what we believe.
There are 12 points in the Creed:
1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth                                
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and the life everlasting.
Gift Idea: Give your loved one a gift that expresses the best part of your love for them. What is something that finishes this season with a Powerful statement?

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