Most know the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a partridge in a pear tree. No, I’m not going to quote the whole song. It does remind us of one important fact. For most of Church history, Christmas wasn’t one day, but a twelve day period.
What we have today is an absence of Advent, replaced by what I call the twelve weeks of Christmas. Except instead of Christmas day kicking off the celebration, it ends it.
Christmas tends to be celebrated in the twelve weeks leading up to December 25th.
Admittedly, this is a bit of hyperbole. But not by much. The twelve weeks ending on Christmas day would start on October 3rd. Around this time people begin thinking about Halloween, which is seen as the beginning of the holiday season culminating in Christmas day.
We know by October 3rd, the retailers are already thinking about Christmas. Many will lament the commercialization of Christmas, but the buying always happens anyway. Retailers are going to supply demand.
It is not merely commercialism. We have Christmas parties in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We put on and attend special programs. We put up our tree and our lights weeks before Christmas day. We play and listen to Christmas music way before the day arrives.
Then once December 26th arrives, the lights go off, the tree goes down, the music ends, and so does Christmas. Some sort of extend the celebration to New Year’s Day, another seven days, but it is understood to be the holidays, not Christmas.
No, very few celebrate the fullness of Christmas. We celebrate Christmas during its preparation plus one day.
We’ve lost the concept of Christmas lasting twelve days.
The net effect is Christmas being more about food, family, and gifts, than it is about Christ. For many years we’ve heard the saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season” in an effort to combat the secularization of the celebration. But that requires actions, not mere words.
For the last several years, our family has made an effort to celebrate the full twelve days of Christmas. Our Christmas tree and lights remain up and on the whole time. After New Year’s Day, our house is usually the lone lit house on the block. I’m sure some of our neighbors have wondered about us when our lights are still blinking well into January.
The great thing about celebrating the full twelve days of Christmas is it gives you more opportunity to make Jesus the reason for the season. It is toward that end I offer the following book: Celebrating the Fullness of Christmas: Devotions on the 12 Days of Christmas. An inexpensive way to keep Christ in focus during your holiday celebrations.
May Jesus Christ, the Word of God come in the flesh to redeem us from our sins, be glorified in our commemoration of His birth over the next twelve days.