Friday, December 28, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas

Because my birthday falls on January 6th, which is Epiphany, I began researching the twelve days leading up to that date. These twelve days are commonly known as The Twelve Days of Christmas. Yes, the twelve days of Christmas come AFTER Christmas, not before. The season before Christmas is known as Advent, which us a time of preparation for the coming of the Savior. Christmas begins on December 25, and lasts through Twelfth Night on the evening of January 5th. January 6th begins the season of Epiphany, where we celebrate Christ's manifestation to the world as the Son of God and the Savior, beginning with the visit of the Magi.

1. Christmas day was the First Day of Christmas, when God (our true Love) sent his one and only Son to become atonement for our sins (much like a partridge in a pear tree, who is known to feign injury to decoy predators and protect her helpless nestlings).

2. The Second Day of Christmas - In Catholicism this is also known as the Feast of St. Stephen, and is celebrated by giving leftovers of the Christmas feast to the poor as described in the carol "Good King Wenceslas." In relation to the song, we can view this as the day when our true Love gave us two turtle doves, that is, the two Testaments, old and new, that proclaim the word of God. Turtle doves are often used to represent devout love and faithfulness. When Jesus was brought to the temple to be consecrated after his birth, two turtle doves were sacrificed in accordance with the Law of Moses.

3. The Third Day of Christmas - This is the day when our True love gave to us three French hens, which can be viewed as the Three Theological Virtues. These three virtues are faith, hope, and love - but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)

4. The Fourth Day of Christmas - On this day our True love gives to us four calling birds (or colly, in the original English tradition). These birds represent the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Today is also the Feast of the Innocents, which remembers the thousands of children who were slaughtered by Herod in his fearful search for the one who was prophesied about. This event is commemorated in the well-known Coventry Carol.

5. The 5th Day of Christmas - Today our gift from our True Love is five golden rings, which represent the five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books are also known as the Torah. They outline the history of our sinful humanity and introduce us to God's grace through the promise of a Savior.

6. The 6th Day of Christmas - This day celebrates the 6 days of creation. Just as geese a-laying is the beginning of new life, so was the creation that gave life to all around us. Today is also the Catholic feast of the Holy Family, which is a great day to be thankful for the blessing of family and strive to live in the faithful love that the Holy Family exemplified.

7. The Seventh Day of Christmas - Our True Love gives to us seven swans a-swimming, which represents the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. "If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." (Rom. 12:6-8 NIV) This is an especially interesting thing to think about as we enter a new year and set our resolutions, as we can think about the gifts that we have been given personally and how to best use them this year to the glory of God.

8. The Eighth Day of Christmas - On the eighth day of Christmas our True Love gives to us eight maids a-milking. These young ladies represent the Beatitudes. These are eight blessings given by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. They demonstrate his teaching of love and humility, and exhibit God's mercy and compassion.

1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
3. Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
5. Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
8. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3-10 NIV)

9. The 9th Day of Christmas - This day our gift from our True Love is nine ladies dancing. The nine stand for the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). These are given to us as guidelines for how to live a life in Christ and love one another.
10. The 10th Day of Christmas - Today our gift from our True Love is ten lords a-leaping. We can view them as representative of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
11. The 11th Day of Christmas - Almost there! On the 11th day of Christmas our True Love gives us eleven pipers piping, which represent the eleven faithful apostles. It doesn't include Judas who betrayed Jesus. I also find the pipers to be symbolic of the apostles who, after the ascension of Christ, traveled, taught, and proclaimed the good news of a risen savior.

12. The 12th Day of Christmas! On this day our True Love gives to us twelve drummers drumming. They stand for the 12 point of the apostles creed, which is statement of the Christian faith and beliefs. Tonight is also Twelfth Night, which celebrates the end of the Christmas season and marks the coming of Epiphany. Some traditions that historically take place on Twelfth Night are drinking wassail, baking pastries and cakes, and overall merrymaking. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night was considered the end of the Winter Festival that began on All Hallow's Eve. Christmas decorations were also traditionally taken down on Twelfth Night. The most famous literary reference is the Shakespeare play by the same name.

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