The Twelve Days of Christmas
I do not come from a Catholic tradition, so the “Twelve Days of Christmas” for me began as a way to spread the season out. We spend so much time preparing and anticipating the day and then like a puff of smoke it’s gone. This imbalance of preparation vs. celebration has never settled with my soul and for years I searched for a way to fight off the feeling of let down that settled over me during the month of January as a result. It has evolved a bit through the years, as I tried to find the right balance of preparation, fun, significance and gift-giving for our family. So while the culture around me culminates their Christmas season on Christmas Day, our family is just beginning to get into the season. So who cares, if that Amazon gift won’t be here until after Christmas, we can move gift-giving to Dec 29th! As a working mom celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas has not only given our whole family an opportunity to slow down and actually reflect on and enjoy the season, it has also alleviated so much stress and pressure to have everything DONE by Dec 25th.
So if you’re one that is frazzled, worn out and let down by the holiday season that you even wonder what it’s all for, perhaps you should give the Twelve Days of Christmas a try…
On the 1st Day of Christmas
Christmas Day…the remembrance of a Savior born to us on Christmas morn and/or the day Santa has slid down the chimney leaving stockings and gifts galore. It’s the day depicted in the movies as the one where the girl gets the boy, Scrooge has a change of heart, George Bailey realizes his worth and all is set right with the world for a day.
I don’t know about you, but I need more than a day to hope for a world set right. This world is an ugly place and it seems to get uglier each day this pandemic creeps along. So as the eve of Christmas approaches and my kids reflect on how fast the day came and went, I smile and breathe knowing we still have some Christmas to look forward to.
As far as our Christmas Day traditions, I always grew up opening the bulk of gifts Christmas Eve, leaving mostly stockings and maybe one Santa gift for the morning. This tradition grew out of a little bit of Scandinavian roots, but mostly out of necessity, since my dad worked a lot of Christmases as a federal employee. When my husband and I got married, this Christmas Eve tradition continued to be an easy solution to the problem of celebrating Christmas with both sides of the family.
As our family grew, my husband and I wanted to create more of our own unique family traditions, so upon the gift of a ceramic Christmas gnome from my grandmother in the early 2000s, the tradition of “Gnome on the Roam” was born. (Elf on the Shelf quickly grew in popularity after our Gnome on the Roam tradition began, but I didn’t have the foresight to market and sell this idea to the masses.) My son named him Hermie and he started out primarily presenting gifts to the kids every 3–4 days after Christmas. Now he arrives on Christmas morning with two of his buddies, Pixie & Gnomeo (found one Christmas at IKEA). Each day of the Twelve, one of the gnomes or pixie arrives with a special message containing a task, activity or scavenger hunt to a gift.
As this family tradition continues to evolve, a few years back we added a Secret Santa challenge where Hermie and friends arrives with everyone’s name in a bag to choose a Secret Santa to focus on throughout the Twelve Days. Rarely has this family of five successfully maintained the secret of the Santa, but it creates for a lot of laughter, family bonding and more importantly a focus for the kids on someone other than themselves.
On the 2nd Day of Christmas
Also known as Boxing Day in the United Kingdom or St. Stephens Day for those steeped in church history. It is a day to remember the less fortunate. For us we use it as a day to purge and box up any unwanted items or to finally deal with those boxes that have been piling up in the garage. Ideally we would donate these items to a charity in need of clothing and/or books, but a great many things also goes to a local thrift store that serves as an extension of a worthwhile charity. Regardless of where our boxes end up it’s an opportunity for our family to reflect on the excess of what we have, renew a focus on living with less, evaluate the difference between our wants and our needs, and try to be better stewards of our resources and the earth.
This year my brother has also introduced a White Elephant exchange, so while boxing up their things, they will also be searching for a fun or practical gift to repurpose to someone else.