Merry Christmas, everyone! Two of my favorite Christmas traditions actually occur after Christmas, so I thought I’d share them today. Most people celebrate the twelve days of Christmas starting on December 13th, but originally those twelve days came after Christmas. They were the twelve days intervening* between Christmas and a holiday called Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day.
For the past several years, I have tried to do something fun for my husband for the twelve days of Christmas. One year I came up with small gifts that sort of vaguely related to the words of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song (starting with pear tarts for dessert and ending with a Radiohead CD). One year I wrote themed lists of things I loved about him or fun shared memories (by the time you hit twelve, it gets really hard to be creative). One of my cheesiest years was a series of silly poems.** This year I can’t tell you the plan because my husband might read this and that would really spoil the surprise.
Here’s what I love about doing the twelve days of Christmas (and doing them after Christmas, not before). If you have kids and a spouse, you may have experienced this phenomenon: You rush around before Christmas, trying to make sure you have just the right gifts for your kids (even if you swore this Christmas would be smaller), trying to make sure that if they have siblings everyone has exactly a fair number (and probably weight and volume) of gifts, and by the time Christmas comes you realize that the gift you got for your spouse was kind of . . . blah. Okay, maybe this is just me, but I have done this a few years. Plus, I find that the hubby is hard to shop for. He doesn’t need or want much, and what he does need or want, we just buy. The best thing I can give him is something a little more personal (even if it’s really silly), something that means I spent time and thought on just him.
Plus, it’s fun trying to think of some way you can represent eleven lords a-leaping as food.
Now for Epiphany (as it’s called in many Christian traditions) or Three Kings’ Day (as it’s called especially in Latin American countries). If you’re not familiar with this tradition, you should be! It’s awesome and fun and a good way to give your family those Christmas presents you couldn’t find in time for Christmas but that suddenly showed up three days later.
My husband is American but was born in Colombia, and his family spent several years in Colombia and Puerto Rico when he was little, so they have been celebrating Three Kings’ Day for years. Now that we’re married, we do it with our own family. Three Kings’ Day is, as you might guess, a celebration of the day the three wise men came to see the baby Jesus (probably not so much a baby anymore, and certainly not twelve days after His birth, but that’s really irrelevant to this discussion). Here’s what you do: On the night of January 5th, you go out and pull up some dead grass from your lawn (or some leaves or whatever). Then you put it in a little shoebox at the end of your bed. While you’re sleeping, the wise men come with their very hungry camels. They are so grateful to see some grass for the camels to eat that they leave you a small present in place of the grass.
We have lots of fun with this tradition. Last year, the camels were so happy that they left a note of thanks (which I wrote in shaky handwriting because, really, what kind of camel knows how to hold a pen well?).*** They also left us two bettas for pets, which turned out to be a terrible idea, but that’s another story.
I love that this is another opportunity to talk about the story of Christmas before it all goes away for another year. I love that it’s a silly, fun way of doing it. I have a real soft spot for the wise men, so I’m happy to get to incorporate them into Christmas a little more. I also love extending Christmas past when most people have stopped thinking about it.
Whether you join in either of these traditions this year (you should! it’s fun!), I hope that your Christmas was lovely and helped you remember the greatest gift we have—our Savior and His sacrifice. I hope your next year turns out just as lovely.
** My favorite was my “Geese a-Laying” poem. Thus demonstrating why I write novels, not poetry.
*** Okay, without going into the whole “Do we tell our kids that Santa/the camels are real?” debate, I will just say that my kids know who the “camels” really are, and it’s still fun and they love it.