Restoring the Twelve Days of Christmas

Restoring the Twelve Days of Christmas

Almost everyone seems to feel the letdown after Christmas Day. After six weeks of singing Christmas carols, shopping, and partying, it all comes to a grinding halt at 8:30am on Christmas morning. Another year till next Christmas.

And as much as people complain about commercialization and hectic holidays, etc, we still keep on doing the same things and expecting different results. A new movement called the Advent Conspiracy aims to help us all slow down, spend less, and focus on family time. Its a bit confusing, because they seem to be conflating Advent with Christmas, but nonetheless its refreshing to hear a part of our culture celebrating more but with less consumer addiction.

This all got me thinking that we should start a Twelve Days Conspiracy. This conspiracy would emphasis the preparation period of Advent, and then the full twelve day celebration of Christmas. This does a few good things:

First, it keeps us sane during the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, as we reflect and pray, a more subdued tone. This alone can help us focus less on spending money and doing a bigger and better lights display and more on the coming of Christ (1st and 2nd).

Second, it helps us focus more on a season and less on one particular day, or moment of one day. This spreads out the joy, so that we don’t feel like Christmas is over after Christmas Day. We get to keep on celebrating for twelve days, and then cap it off as we celebrate Epiphany on January 6th, the day of transition out of Christmas and into “ordinary” time, a more gentle transition than the startling end of Christmas morning.

Third, it provides more time to absorb Christmas, and reflect on Christmas together. During the twelve days, we can read the Christmas story, and reflect on the various feast days (St Stephen, for instance, on December 26th). This period follows the “rush” of Christmas, so its a great time to relax together and actually think about the beautiful and unique Christian story of Incarnation.

I was thinking we should start this new conspiracy…and then I remembered that is started centuries ago. Its called the Church Year, and most world Christians have and still are observing this pattern. What made millions of Christians decide to chuck Advent and the Twelve Days? I suspect that at some point we scraped the icing off the cake, trying to get to the good part first. And then we felt too sick to our stomachs to eat the actual cake. The remedy is to save that cake until birthday time, and then cut off a little slice each day, enjoying each bite.

So the rallying cry has been sounded, and here are the marching orders:

1. Do NOT, under any circumstances, sing any Christmas Carols until Christmas Eve.
(Okay, sure, at the office Christmas party or something, okay, but not when you have a choice.)

2. During Advent (starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas), focus on the promises of the coming Messiah, on “preparing the way of the Lord” through repentance, reflection, and anticipation. Learn to wait. Put an Advent wreath on the table, lighting one purple candle each week (pink is on the third Sunday) and then the white Christmas candle on Christmas Eve.

3. On Christmas Eve, put up the tree, put out the presents, and shout and sing for joy! On Christmas Day, sing, eat, give, and enjoy family time.

4. Give the kids and each other a small, homemade gift or an active craft or game each day of the 12 days. Have a time of Scripture reading and prayer, and talk about the Christmas Story and its meaning.

5. On January 6th, light candles, read about the Wise Men who came from the east, and sing Christmas Carols. Close out the season by removing the Christmas tree, and its fun to have a bonfire using the tree if you can.

We have never been able to wait until Christmas Eve to put up the tree. So I’m right there with all of you who are groaning right now. But I’m ready for a Twelve Days ancient/future conspiracy to get us all out of the Christmas funk — and restore Christmas to its high place as a feast worthy of a month of preparation and twelve days of celebration.


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