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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas is over.  Or is it?  Actually, according to the Christian calendar we are now in the midst of the season of Christmas, having concluded Advent on Christmas Eve and begun the 12 Days of Christmas observance.   December 25, Christmas Day itself ushers in 12 days of celebration, ending only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany (The visit of the Magi). Truth be told most people are exhausted and done with Christmas and can’t wait to take down the decorations and move on to the New Year.  But there is a danger to moving on too fast.  In a culture of headlines, 140 character tweets and sound bites life itself seems to come and go in a blink of an eye.  As author and school president Ronald Rolheiser said: “Our society knows how to anticipate an event but not how to sustain it.”
     There are some important observances during the 12 days of Christmas which highlight how the enfleshed God in the person of Jesus continues to live through His body, the Church. .  On December 26 is the Feast of Saint Stephen as we commemorate the life and martyrdom of Stephen.  He gave his life in service to the poor and ultimately in the testifying of his faith in Christ. Traditionally, service to the poor and needy are done on this day and is to become a way of life. It is the basis of the song “Good King Wenceslas” .  December 27th is the Feast of Saint John  who wrote the words:  “The Word became flesh  and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,  the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).  On December 28th is the final feast, The Feast Of The Innocents.  During this feast we remember the slaughter of the innocent children by King Herod as recorded in Matthew chapter two.  In celebrating the Holy Innocents, we remember the victims of abortion, of war, of abuse. We renew our faith that the coming of Christ brings hope to the most hopeless.and that we are recipients of His mercy and unconditional love.
      Each year we sing The Twelve Days Of Christmas (or at least hear it on the radio).  Tradition has it that this song is actually filled with spiritual messages, written in code in England during a period of time when Catholicism was outlawed in the 16th – 18th centuries. It was written as a kind of secret catechism that could be sung in public without fear of arrest or persecution.  The song was used as a memory aid, especially for the illiterate working class.  Each verse refers to a teaching of church doctrine – with the partridge being Christ who died on a tree and the “True Love” being God the Father, who gave us all gifts.  I can’t say for sure this legend is true but it certainly will give new meaning to the song when you sing it or hear it, especially during the twelve days of Christmas.
1. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus.
2. The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.
3. Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.
4. The four calling birds are the four Gospels.
5. The five gold rings recall the Hebrew Torah (Law), or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.
6. The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.
7. The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
8. The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.
9. Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
10. The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
11. Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful Apostles.
12. Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed.
     Christmas did not end on December 25th. This Friday is actually the 6th day of Christmas. It is also the 7th night of Chanukah and the 5th day of Kwanza.  The celebrations continue.
What do you think?  How does it make you feel?