Contrary to what appears to be going on around Facebook these days, the Twelve Days of Christmas are not the days leading up to Christmas. They are, in fact, the days between Christmas and Epiphany, and the twelve days of Christmas are meant to be twelve days of celebrating feast. While the well-known Christmas carol is likely to have evolved as a way to teach counting to children (although there are other theories, but not well-supported theories), the season after Christmas day is the season of plenty.
The season before Christmas is meant to be a season of waiting. Advent. To prepare for Christmas.
We may feel like we “prepare” for Christmas too much already. But I encourage you to take away any preparations that you do that involve buying gifts and going to Christmas concerts. (Although both things are fine to do.) Think about how you spend the time preparing yourself for what the Twelve Days of Christmas are really supposed to be about.
In order to understand better, let’s look at the common purpose of feasting in the liturgical calendar.
The days prior to a feast were often filled with fasting. Prayer. Preparation. In fact, both Lent and Advent are liturgically connected to fasting. We practice it much more in Lent, but imagine if we had a healthy Advent fast, as well. What might we fast from?
Since the purpose of feasting is celebration and the practice of feasting generally includes much rest, much joy, and much plenty, we might think of fasting in a different light. Certainly, one could fast from foods. Rich foods, sugary foods, fatty foods. What have you. But one could also fast from other things.
Imagine those who cannot participate in the joy of feasting this Christmas. Perhaps they’ve lost a loved one or a job or a community. Perhaps they don’t have the luxuries you have. Perhaps their luxury blinds them to their depression (or is a crutch for their happiness). Perhaps they have lost something more important.
Fasting in preparation, to me, means that we not only deny ourselves something, but we replace it with something edifying. So in preparation for Christmas this year, I’ve been making presents, sure. I’ve been doing some fasting, even. I will likely be working straight up until the day of Christmas feasts.
But then I’m going to do something I haven’t done before.
I’m going to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas. And I’m going to do so on this blog. I have a book coming out, so I’m going to be doing plenty of celebrating already, but I’m going to attempt to look at the feasts of Christmas and how I can celebrate those feasts and honor the Spirit of Christmas in my house this year. And then I’m going to party. I may party alone (baking, making, cleaning–yes, cleaning can be a party). I will party with people. But I’m going to party. I’m going to get all I can get out of the Twelve Days of Christmas!
Granted, my preparation for Christmas without all the trappings of a typical Christmas hasn’t been intentional this year. It’s the result of a couple of major events that happened in my life, neither of which were intentional on my part. Or, perhaps better said, the effects of one were unintentional and the entirety of the other was unintentional. But both have robbed me of the luxuries of Christmas in a way I hadn’t really expected.
So I’m going to lay aside the somberness leading up to my Christmas this year. I’m going to finish my work, of course, because it’s due, frankly. But once Christmas comes, I’m going to take full advantage of the season of feasting this year, and I’m going to celebrate. New things, new people, new experiences, new celebrations. All of it meant to draw my focus toward next year, and toward the things that God will do for me, for us, for the world, for each of us.
Join me if you’d like. I’m going to put up my Christmas tree the day before Christmas and keep it up through the Feast Days. I’m going to celebrate the feasts and joy of Christmas as it was meant to be enjoyed. And I’m going to do my best to reflect here on what that means for me and my family in the coming year.
In these next few days, join me in celebrating the Advent of Christmas. Wait with me. Think with me. Pray with me. Sing with me. Sit with me. Just wait. Wait. Wait. Just wait.