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Introduction adapted from my article for [D]mergent on December 11th, 2013. Full calendar follows below.
As you probably know, Christmas doesn’t begin until December 25th, but it doesn’t end there, either. In the Christian tradition, Christmas lasts twelve days (December 25th through January 5th), and then we celebrate Epiphany on January 6th. However, most of our American/Western culture started celebrating Christmas the day after Thanksgiving and the trees and decorations are down on December 26th. Most radio stations stop playing Christmas music on December 25th, and the Christmas specials and movies end their airtime on TV that day as well. Satellite radio will at least go through New Year’s Eve and most businesses will keep their decorations up until then, but that’s it. Most people do not know about the Twelve Days of Christmas besides the song.
Advent is a wonderful season, and Advent calendars for children are a great way to learn about waiting for Christmas. Advent devotionals are a great way for families or just adults to spend time reflecting on what the Incarnation means to them. Many churches write their own Advent devotionals with activities to do as a family during this season. But after December 25th, there is nothing.
Seeing how, at least in the United States, most children are out of school for two weeks (almost the entire Christmas season itself), I am proposing we do more to acknowledge and celebrate the twelve days of Christmas. I will be writing a devotional with activities for families—both children and adults—to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and to spend time together. Plus, let’s face it—the novelty of new toys wears off in a few days and the whole second week of vacation can be spent counting down the hours and minutes until school starts again (at least from a parent’s point of view). As a parent of a child with special needs, the break in routine and regular schedules can also be difficult to navigate—one or two days is fine; two weeks seems like two months.
And while this is a great idea to take up time while school is out, it’s more than that—this can be a time to acknowledge, celebrate and respond to the Incarnation in our very homes and daily lives. The Incarnation gets swept away in the cultural celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Even in the life of the church, the first Sunday of Christmas is often a Sunday with low attendance, carol-sings, guest preachers or other special activities. The following Sunday is often Epiphany Sunday or looking at the New Year. We end up missing the Incarnation that we waited all Advent to celebrate.
So here is a Twelve Days of Christmas Calendar–the full version I have included a few preparation days of Advent as most school districts in the U.S. will be out for holiday vacation after Friday, and it runs through Epiphany. I will also post each day separately. Note there are some supplies needed for the activities (the list is included on the downloadable calendar).
Gingerbread House Kit
Tall pillar candle in glass (many “Dollar Tree” stores have these behind the saint candles—you will find clear glass pillar candles—if you can’t find them, a votive candle in a glass votive holder will do)
Glue Sticks and Clear Packing Tape
Colored Construction Paper
Thank you cards and stamps
Printed photos of activities/events from the past year
Birthday cake for Jesus for January 6th