12 Days of Christmas
38 This is in addition to the Lord’s sabbaths and in addition to your presents, all the payments for solemn promises, and all the spontaneous gifts that you give to the Lord. 39 Note that on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered the land’s crops, you will celebrate the Lord’s festival for seven days. The first day and the eighth day are days of special rest. 40 On the first day you must take fruit from majestic trees, palm branches, branches of leafy trees, and willows of the streams, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 You will celebrate this festival to the Lord for seven days each year; this is a permanent rule throughout your future generations. You will celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 For seven days you must live in huts. Every citizen of Israel must live in huts 43 so that your future generations will know that I made the Israelites live in huts when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. 44 So Moses announced the Lord’s appointed times to the Israelites.
The celebration of the twelve days of Christmas goes far beyond the traditional English carol. Still the celebration of the feast is not uniform. Some communities begin the celebrations on December 25 and the twelfth day is January 5, while others start the count with December 26 and end on Epiphany. In either case the night before Epiphany the “Twelfth Night” is the climax of the feasting and merrymaking. Historically this period seems to have arisen out of the Jewish practice of celebrating a festival for a full week and an inability to completely reconcile the two dates of Christmas (Dec 25 and Jan 6). Christmas was seen by the Church as important as Jewish festivals, and needed to celebrated accordingly. Since there was discrepancy as to the date of Christmas, why not stretch the feast to include both. We have lost that tradition and instead we have “blue Monday”, the date of the greatest amount of depression; brought on, in part, because the celebration of Christmas is over. It would appear that our ancestors knew something we don’t. Christmas is so great it cannot be celebrated in one mere day; it cannot be celebrated in one mere week. Christmas is a glorious event and requires a significant amount of time from us to be properly celebrated, and provides us with joy throughout the winter.
One of the great celebrations in the twelve days of feasts was the “lord for the feast”. In this tradition an individual was declared host for the celebrations of the season, and while the true lord of the house would be made a servant. Originally a pagan custom, this tradition came to represent how God in the Incarnation was humbled for humanity’s sake; and how humanity was raised to a higher level. The folk song Good King Wenceslas portrays this practice. The song describes Wenceslas bringing the feast to a peasant on the first day of Christmas. It is amazing the levels to which God has descended and the heights to which we can ascend in the incarnation. One short day of gift-giving and feasting seems inadequate to commemorate such a glorious event.
O Indescribable Joy, bless that my celebration of your birth may always continue and that I never tire of celebrating your gift. Amen
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