It is said that the lyrics of the well-known Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” are symbolic. As the story goes, (I haven’t done much research into the historicity of this tradition) the song was written by Roman Catholics in England during the 18th century when they were being persecuted by the Church of England. The numbers seem to be the most important indicator of the symbolism. Most importantly, for our purposes, is the acknowledgment that Christmas is a season on the Church’s calendar, which lasts twelve days, as is obvious from the song’s title.
That’s what I want us to take away from this little church sign exercise. The world delivers Christmas to us in a lump known as the “Holiday Season.” According to our contemporary culture, Christmas is one day among a number of holidays. We’re taught to look forward to it primarily from Black Friday to Christmas Eve. Because of this, many people assume the twelve days of Christmas come before Christmas. They don’t. To make matters worse, some marketing schemes riff on the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” running ad campaigns that highlight their sales and services during the “Twelve Days to Christmas.” Confusion abounds!
The Christmas season goes from The Nativity of Our Lord on 12/25 (Christmas Day) to January 5. The Epiphany season begins on January 6. This year, we’ll use the church sign and the classic 18th-century carol to highlight that there are indeed twelve days of Christmas. The symbolism in the song is blessing upon blessing.
The Nativity of our Lord
On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me two turtledoves