Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Final Days of Christmas

This is a little odd to say, but Christmas was kind of anti-climactic this year.  We did so many different activities during Advent to get ready for Christmas, but we didn't really have much planned for Christmas itself.  This was apparent Christmas evening when we were getting ready to head upstairs for bath time and Henry turned to me and said, "what ornament do we hang up tonight?"

Uh, what?

It turns out that Henry really, really, liked the Jesse Tree.  He loved hanging up a new ornament each evening and lighting the Advent candles and opening the new window on the Advent calendar.  He loved moving Mary and Joseph and their donkey closer to the stable each night.  And, while the Three Kings have been moving closer, we haven't really had anything else to do in the evenings to mark the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Sure, we've plugged in our lights outside and we have our Christmas tree up and lit.  We're listening to our classical Christmas music station on Pandora throughout the day.  We're still reading Christmas stories and wishing each other merry Christmas.  But, I see his point.  The days are kind of blending together.

So, I've got a plan for next year.  Next year, we're going to have a Twelve Days of Christmas Tree.  It's going to be based off of the Twelve Days of Christmas song, the earliest written version.  The carol was written by 16th century English Jesuits and there's a real meaning behind the verses.  The symbols are:
  • Partridge in a pear tree - Jesus Christ on the Cross
  •  Two Turtledoves - The Old and New Testaments
  • Three French Hens - The Trinity
  • Four Calling Birds - The four Gospels
  • Five Golden Rings - The first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah)
  • Six Geese A-laying - The six days of Creation
  • Seven Swans A-swimming - The seven Sacraments
  • Eight Maids A-milking - The eight Beatitudes
  • Nine Drummers Drumming - The nine choirs of Angels
  • Ten Ladies Dancing - The Ten Commandments
  • Eleven Pipers Piping - The eleven faithful Apostles
  • Twelve Lords A-leaping - The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed
I'm going to plan on getting another lighted willow branch, the same as we used for our Jesse Tree.  I'll download images for 12 large ornaments, big enough to have the meanings printed on the backs.  Then, each night of Christmas, we can light our white Christmas candles and hang the evening's ornament in our Twelve Days Tree.  This will both provide continuity with our Advent ceremony and emphasize the breadth of the Christmas season.

I'm also leaning slightly toward spreading out gifts over the Twelve Days.  We'd still open presents on Christmas morning, but it might be nice to put a little something at the foot of the bed each day of Christmas.  Nothing big.  I'm thinking a book, a toy car, a little box of candy, new crayons... things like that.  Just something to tie each day to Christmas.

But, this will all wait for next year.  I wish I'd thought about it sooner, but this is just part of growing our family traditions!

And speaking of traditions, Friday is the Epiphany (I know the USCCB moved it to Sunday, but I'm going to go with the Vatican on this one).  It's going to be Three Kings Day around here.  The wise men will finally arrive at the stable, we'll make a king cake (I'm cheating and using cinnamon rolls), and we'll do our chalk blessing over the door.

If you've never heard of the chalk blessing, it's very simple.  First, get some chalk.  Then, bless it.  Then inscribe the following over your door:

The numbers on the outside are the current year.  C, M, and B are the first letters of the traditional names of the three wise men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.  There's a second meaning, too.  C, M, and B are also the first letters of the Latin phrase "Christus mansionem benedicat," which means, "Christ bless this house."

It's a nice way to end Christmas and enter ordinary time again.

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