Twelve Days of Christmas

I always loved Christmas when I was growing up. It wasn’t just the gifts, the lights, the holly or the music. It was the magical feeling of awaiting the Birth of Christ. In our house, we always had a creche scene, an Advent calendar and a Christmas tree with a star on top. But every year, December 26th seemed like such a let-down! Sure, we still had the tree and decorations, but the excitement, the sense of joy, and the feasting gave way to empty wrapping paper and leftovers.

One problem is that Christmas has become an isolated feast day, excised from its place in the liturgical year, especially Advent, Epiphany, and the Baptism of Our Lord. Just as we often ignore the hopeful and quietly expectant mood of Advent, we also forget about the feasting and joy of the full Christmas season. But if we pay attention to those “Twelve Days of Christmas” falling between December 25 and Epiphany on January 6 (even though we celebrate Epiphany on January 3 this year!) we can continue to sing the carols, read the Scriptures and experience the joy of the birth of our Lord for the whole season! Instead of one isolated Christmas day, the joy and festive spirit of Christmas can permeate the entire “Twelve Days of Christmas!” That’s the story behind the traditional song and the daily gifts!

During the Twelve Days of Christmas and Christmastide the Church also celebrates other major holy days including those of our patron St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, the Holy Innocents, and the Holy Family. St. Stephen and the Innocents were martyred for the faith, and St. John suffered. The Holy Family was driven from their homeland into Egypt. The Church places these feasts in the midst of the season of Christmas to remind us that the mystery of the Incarnation is more than just the Lord’s Birth: it is also about His suffering and death! As followers of Christ, our celebration of Christmas is more than just trees and presents. It’s about our obligation to lead radical Christian lives that say that we would be willing – like St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents – to give up our lives for Christ!