It is the day before Christmas, and I do not have to work! It is a miracle! Well, perhaps not a miracle, but a thrill. I have not had this day off for a decade. I am grateful to The Empress and That Man for thinking of it. I will therefore join the kids in picking up our feast and cleaning and decorating the house before we go to choir practice at the church at 4:30. We will have the feast between the services, and possibly afterwards as well.
I offer you a song today which you already know: “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Many people are confused about the twelve days in question, if not about the song. Christmas begins at sunset tonight, and continues till Twelfth Night, which begins at sunset on January 5th. You have a grand party on Twelfth Night and eat up all the remaining holiday food. January 6th is Epiphany, the proper day to remove all holiday decorations and get back to whatever is your normal behavior.
I am open-minded. I will allow some leeway. Some people like to begin Carnival immediately after Epiphany, and not bother getting back to normal until Lent, or possibly Easter. Some do not follow the traditional celebration calendar at all, either because they have noticed that there is no scriptural basis for it or because they aren’t traditionalists. Some don’t count their days from sunset. Some people don’t even celebrate Christmas. That’s all fine. But if you want to follow the tradition, you might just as well know what it is.
If you thought that tomorrow was the last day of Christmas, with the twelve days being some sort of shopping day countdown, then I am sorry, but you were wrong.
Here is the song: http://www.night.net/christmas/12-Days.html
There is lots of information at this site about the twelve days, the song, what a colly bird might be, and the controversy over whether or not the song has religous symbolism (I say it didn’t start out that way, but the church traditionally co-opts things for religious symbolism, so why not?): http://www.abcog.org/12days.htm
The Penguin Book of Carols says that this song had its origin in the parlor game we call “I Packed My Trunk,” where each player has to list all the things the previous player said, with an addition. And indeed many people even now use “The 12 Days of Christmas” as a sort of parlor game, assigning each person in the group one of the days so that they have to chime in with their day when it is time. There are people who would rather be boiled with the Christmas pudding than go through shenanigans like that. You know your own group best.
In any case, it is surely a day — or at least a night — for fun and frolic. Go to a candlelight service. Open presents. Read “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Aloud, if possible. Or go the whole hog and read Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Or watch it on TV. Eat, drink, and be merry!
Alternatively, go to DrDrew’s place and exercise and eat carrot sticks.