Wednesday, December 10, 2008

those pesky 12 days

I'm preparing an intensive Confirmation Class for some parishioners as we anticipate the annual visit of our bishop January 4. Ordinarily such a class would meet for a period of about 8 weeks, but since I began my appointment at the church in November, the bishop's scheduled visit and two major holidays all clanged together in a two-month period, there is no opportunity for "the usual."

No problem. This is stuff I can do pretty well in my sleep, but we are going to be a small and thoughtful (read "smart") group, so I want to do better than pretty well, and I've been brushing up.

Holy Cow, if you'll pardon the seasonally appropriate pun. There is some really cool stuff out there that I knew nothing about! Like the origin of Advent calendars (without knowing it my Mama raised me right--we had a tree on our calendar); the three-fold coming of Christ (and here we've been talking about the second coming like THAT was the ultimate); the difference between hymns and carols...

I'm having a ball with all this minutiae that is actually quite meaningful. Of course this stuff would be fun for me--I'm a person who loves metaphor and symbols, and the Church is loaded with it. Who knew (well, I guess God did) that becoming a priest would be such a good fit for me?

This also coincides a bit with my usual annual desire to go on a rant about the abuse of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Food Network's Twelve Days of Cookies (some of which I will probably try to make) and a few other web sites splash "12 Days of" stuff all over the place with such glee that it's hard to feel annoyed, but I am a bit of a stickler about this kind of thing. In the spirit of the season and of learning, however, I've decided not to rant, but relate.

The "twelve days of Christmas" refers to the season of Christmas according to the liturgical year of the Church. The first day of Christmas is Christmas Day, and they follow accordingly through January 5, also known as Twelfth Night. January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany, which marks the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem and the recognition by humanity of God's divinity in the Christ child. (This very abbreviated lesson is now over.)

I have a friend who, with her husband, open their Christmas gifts to each other during the twelve days, one gift each day. One year I even did that with my friend Clare, since my package to her was shipped so late that it was likely going to arrive sometime during the "12 days." It's actually sort of a fun way to extend the season. And in some households I know, the Christmas tree goes up Christmas Eve and comes down on Twelfth Night, so as to be true to the season (according to the church year).

Whenever you mark the twelve days it is my wish for you that you enjoy them. I'll love you no matter what.


Kip said...

well the 12 days really mean nothing to me as you know so I'm happy any way it goes, lol!

Jayne said...

Until I joined the church, I had no clue about the meaning of the twelve days and Epiphany, and I do know die hard people who simply refuse to even put the tree up until Christmas Eve. I think there is room for compromise. I can anticipate His coming better with things around me which enhance being in the season. I'd be sad if I only had those things to enjoy for 12 days. :c)

:Jayne said...

Our tree does stay up til 12th night, but goes up way before Christmas eve. I know when we had real trees they went up Christmas eve. I like the present a day idea! LOL!
We do a gift on 12th night, just as the magi brought the gifts to the baby Jesus. That tradition comes from my husband's family.

madcow said...

Yes! My 12 presents were so much fun that year. Marty & Joe just used to roll their eyes every morning as I laboured over which one to open but I suspect they were rather jealous! LOL A friend told me that her European friends even had a specially carved wooden box that the children in the family would dip into to select a gift each day - some of these things are fascinating!


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