My favorite thing about following the church calendar is simple: Christmas gets 12 days. Yes, the 12 Days of Christmas is not just a fanciful song full of lords-a-leaping, and lots and lots of birds. It’s actually part of the way that the church has celebrated Christmas for a longtime – not one day, but “Christmastide.”
Most of us do Christmas Day. And then it’s over. The radio stations move on. The Facebook, Instagram, Twitter posts head towards the New Year and resolutions to be shared. Some of us even like to take down the decorations as soon as possible.
But the hope of Christmas – God with us in the person of Jesus – has always been seen as too big, too good, to just be relegated to one day. Rather, we need 12 days. And those 12 days are feast days!
For all my ranting and raving and encouraging children to keep asking for presents (kidding!), I sometimes get asked, “okay, that’s wonderful that Christmas is 12 days and we should feast for 12 days, not just one, but how do you actually do that?”
It’s a fair question – many of us are returning to work while Christmastide is still in play, and fewer of our budgets can support a full Christmas feast each night for 12 days (although if yours can, I say go for it!).
So what does Christmas feasting look like over those twelve days? I like to think of feasting broadly as not just eating lots of good food (although that can be a part of it), but as a way of enjoying abundance that reminds us of God’s generosity toward us. Sometimes, when we’re ready to move on to the next thing, a practice or two can help remind us that, for all that everyone tells us it’s over, Christmas isn’t over yet. Here’s a few ideas you could do by yourself, with family, or friends.
- Try reading the story of Christ’s birth from Luke 2 once (or even twice) on other days during Christmastide. Will it feel a bit odd? Probably, but it’s a way of reminding us of how huge that event is – God coming into our world in a Middle Eastern manger.
- Leave the decorations up for the entire 12 days, or if you’ve already taken them all down, put a decoration or two back up. Yes, this one may be hard for some of us who are ready for the next thing, but the beauty of “feasting” is to be present to a season and Christmas deserves more than one day.
- Have a feast of some kind on another day or two. I might suggest the 12th day of Christmas (January 5) as a good night to share a special bottle of wine, go out for a nicer dinner than usual, or cook a favorite meal together. End the season well, remembering that the abundance you experience reflects God’s gracious gift to us in the person of Jesus.
Those are just a few thoughts and there are many other ways you could continue to practice Christmas “feasting”. I hope your feasting, in whatever form it takes, brings joy and a deepening sense of God’s gracious presence being with you this season.