Christianity Today recently published an opinion piece entitled, “What Forgotten Christmas Tradition Should Churches Revive?” Three people, Patricia Raybon, Larry Eskridge, and Lore Ferguson, shared their candidate traditions, and one of the three struck a chord with me. Lore Ferguson writes about the tradition of the twelve days of Christmas (like in that song kids love to sing every year).

In churches which follow a liturgical calendar, December 25 is only the first day of Christmas. On the church calendar, Christmas is a season. Technically, December 25 is not called “Christmas” (that being the name of the season) but the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. Christmas is the period from December 25 through January 5 inclusive; those are the twelve days of Christmas. January 6, the day following the season of Christmas, is Epiphany, the feast which commemorates the visit of the magi, or wise men, to Jesus, and by extension celebrates the revelation of Jesus to the gentiles. (You can read my reflection for Epiphany here.) Ms. Ferguson’s recommendation is that we should revive the celebration of Christmas as a season — give it twelve full days. One day isn’t enough for the love expressed in the incarnation or for the joy of receptive hearts. With this I totally agree.

The realist in me says that we will not change our society’s view of Christmas as a one-day holiday, but the optimist in me says that I can change my view. I can celebrate the season of Christmas — all twelve days — with festivity, joy, giving of gifts, and especially with a grateful heart. I can’t change society, but I can change myself. And how else does society change but by changing one person at a time? I invite you to also revive the custom of twelve days, and return Christmas to a full season instead of an abbreviated day.

One might say, “But Christmas already goes on long enough — decorations go up on Thanksgiving at the latest, and sometimes I hear Christmas songs the day after Halloween!” That’s a good point, and it brings up another of our neglects of the liturgical calendar, namely the loss of Advent. The weeks preceding Christmas should be a time of preparation for Christmas, not the beginning of the celebration. If we used Advent for preparation and building of anticipation then we would be ready for a full Christmas season. I try to use Advent properly, and that is a large part of the reason I want a full season for Christmas — I feel I’m ready for it!

Maybe society isn’t ready to delay Christmas celebration for a few weeks and use that time in reflection and preparation. Maybe society can’t feel enough joy and gratitude to fill twelve days of Christmas. But I think I can, or I can at least try. Can you?

copyright 2014 by the author