Wishing you a Merry Christmas!
A small child's life is marked by significant days of feasting. In one breath they can ask, "Is it Christmas? Is it my Birthday? Is it a Special Day?" It is this joy and expectation that we all celebrate. Christmas is when we all celebrate like children. But for children, one day is not enough, and for the Church, one day of birthday celebrations is not enough. This is the most important birthday in the history of the world, and so it makes sense to prepare for four weeks, and to feast for Twelve days at least, if not more. Children will always ask to "do it again" and hopefully these suggestions for celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas will make sure that Christ's birth is honored and treasured in your family's memory.
First Day of Christmas
All the other days of Christmas relive the glorious day. You probably already have traditions that are special to your family, but here are a few suggestions to add.
- Before opening presents, read the Gospel from Luke because Our Lord's birth is the greatest gift
- Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus
- Here is a coloring page
- Prepare a Christmas recipe from the Vatican Christmas Cookbook
- Save the wrapping paper for an activity later on the Twelfth Day of Christmas
Second Day of Christmas - December 26
Feast of St. Stephen
In Great Britain, this is called Boxing Day because it was traditionally when servants could take home to their families a box of presents and good cheer. It was the rest day for the servant classes, and can be a rest day for long-suffering and persevering parents.
In Ireland, the feast of St. Stephen is also celebrated with parades and collecting money for the poor. The legend is that the wren gave St. Stephen away to the religious authorities, and so children are asked to dress up and chase the wren away.
In Austria it is the day for blessing the horses, because St. Stephen is the patron of horses.
So some ideas to incorporate rest and play:
Third Day of Christmas - December 27
Feast of St. John the Evangelist and Holy Family Sunday
This year the third day of Christmas features the wonderful conjunction of St. John the Evangelist and Holy Family Sunday. St John the Evangelist was known as the beloved disciple and Jesus on the Cross established a continuation of the Holy Family to St. John the Evangelist when he said from the Cross, "Behold your Mother," to St. John. Then it says that St. John from that hour took Mary into his home (Jn 19:27). These are the same words used when St. Joseph takes Mary into that first home of the Holy Family (Mt. 1:24). So either celebrating St. John or St. Joseph along with Mary and of course Our Lord will be great for this feast day.
Fourth Day of Christmas - December 28
Feast of the Holy Innocents
The story of the Holy Innocents is difficult and it seems more fitting to have a day of mourning for these little children, but because of the Resurrection we can take comfort from Our Lord's words, " Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you" (John 16: 20-24) There is a beautiful story taken from the A Storybook of the Saints that explains this day to the young child. Here is that passage.
Fifth Day of Christmas - December 29
Each day of the Twelve Days we are reliving the event of Jesus’ Birth. Today we will honor the shepherds and focus on their part of the story. The shepherds were guarding their flocks and the angels appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were given a quest by the angels to seek the child in the city of David. They found him and adored the Christ Child.
Sixth Day of Christmas - December 30
Today the focus of celebrations will be on the story of the Star of Bethlehem. It is true that we may never know exactly how God guided the Magi to the baby but it is fascinating to pursue different explanations from modern astronomers about what it could be. The truth is that God is revealing himself through creation, and the Psalmist sings, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands. Day unto day pours forth speech; night unto night whispers knowledge, (Psalm 19:1-3). The Creator told the magi through the Heavens how to find the Messiah.
Seventh Day of Christmas - December 31
There are already so many traditions for New Year’s Eve, but the celebrations weave in the themes of the Messiah and the coming of Jesus. It is a day to reflect not only on the blessings of the past year, but to look forward to a fresh start and rededication to the Lord. If you teens or tweens are determined to stay up, here are few ideas to start the year.
Eighth Day of Christmas - January 1
Feast of Mary the Mother of God
The Church begins the New Year with the feast of Mary the Mother of God. It is part of the octave of Christmas and displays Mary’s role in our salvation. Here is a quote from a longer excerpt by St. Anselm.
The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.
Ninth Day of Christmas - January 2
This is the day to celebrate the angels. We know that they were rejoicing and praising, and scaring people with their magnificence. So spend this day celebrating with intelligence, laughter, and healthy competition.
- Here is a coloring page of the angels
- Have a family game night. Maybe you have a favorite game already, but another game you could play would be a variation of salad bowl. Each player for their team would submit a saint name
- Another more messaging game (the angels were messengers) and not as competitive more hilarious, one person starts with a phrase, “early bird gets the worm, “ and the next person draws a picture of it, the next person then has to guess the phrase based on the picture, and it goes around the room like telephone. When the person who started has their phrase back, you all get to see how it changed!
- Here is a Christmas Carol for today, of course, Angels, We Have Heard on High
Tenth Day of Christmas - January 3
Epiphany and Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
The feast of the Three Kings, also known as Epiphany, in many countries is the main gift-giving day. Traditionally it was on January 6, but now it is the second Sunday after Christmas. Many families don’t put the kings in their Nativity scene until this feast day. It is the final part of the Christmas Nativity Story. So today you can especially feast and remember the story.
Eleventh Day of Christmas - January 4
Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
This day of Christmas coincides with an American saint and patron saint of Catholic Schools. This day of Christmas we are going to dive into the history and geography of the Flight into Egypt. St. Elizabeth would approve of an educational activity! The flight into Egypt is described in this passage from the Gospel of Matthew. May we all follow the commands of the Lord as promptly.
Twelfth Day of Christmas - January 5
Feast of St. John Neumann
You made it to the Twelfth Day of Christmas! We hope you have enjoyed the celebrations and ideas. Today is the last day it might be fun to redo any special activity from a previous day, and the activities below relive the gift-giving of the first day, and celebrate the feast of another American saint, St. John Neumann.
- Here is a coloring page and biography of St. John Neumann
- One of the devotions that he emphasized in his parishes was the Forty Hour Devotion. Maybe make a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament today
- And to keep the party games going, at some point play Pass the Parcel. Hopefully, you saved the wrapping paper from Christmas Day. It takes some preparation and supervision, but if you include candy or small gifts in each layer, everyone can get a prize
- Finally, an American carol that was written by St. John de Brebeuf for the Huron/Wendat people in their own language
A final prayer:
Lord our God, with the birth of your Son, your glory breaks on the world. Through the night hours of the darkened earth, we your people watch for the coming of your promised Son. As we wait, give us a foretaste of the joy that you will grant us when the fullness of his glory has filled the earth, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever. Amen.
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