“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a partridge in a pear tree.” Unfortunately, this may be what most people think of when they hear the phrase, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” However, the twelve days of Christmas is actually part of the church calendar. In the Lutheran church we call this time of year Christmastide. Now some might assume that these are the twelve days leading up to Christmas, but the twelve days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas Day. In other words, the twelve days of Christmas go from December 25th to January 6th.
You might be asking what are these twelve days for. Well, unlike what the previously mentioned song seems to suggest, they aren’t intended to be further opportunities to give and receive more gifts. Instead, they are intended to give opportunity to further reflect on the entire event of Christ’s entrance into our world. For example, on December 28th we observe Holy Innocents day. This is the day we remember the children that were killed by Herod when he was looking for the newborn king in Bethlehem. Matthew 2:16 says, “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” On this day we also remember all the children who have been unjustly taken from this world.
On January 1 (8 days after Christmas) we observe the day when Jesus was circumcised and named. In Luke 2:21 it says, “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” This event reminds us of two things. First, the incarnation; that Jesus was God made flesh. Second, this day also reminds us of the purpose of His coming. He was given the name Jesus, which is derived from the Hebrew name Joshua, which means “Salvation of God.” On this day we once again remember that Jesus came to save us from our sin.
The twelve days of Christmas come to a close with Epiphany on January 6th. On this day we remember a few events. First, on this day we remember the day the Magi came to Bethlehem to worship and present gifts to Jesus. In this event we
remember that Christ came for all people and that salvation is for all people; both Jews and Gentiles. In other traditions Epiphany is the observance of Christ’s Baptism, or the beginning of His earthly ministry. Still others recognize Epiphany as the day of Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine.
So, as you welcome in the New Year, remember that the true celebration of Christmas isn’t over yet. In fact, the good news of Christmas is never over for Christians. Each day is another reminder to us that Christ has come, that He daily comes, and that He will come again.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!