When I was a child, part of my mother’s Christmas decorations included a figurine of a sleeping Santa, slumped against a signpost reading “December 26.” I remember the exhilarating anticipation of Christmas morning as a child, but I understand now, as an adult, how even the most fun and meaningful holidays can wear us out. By the time we reach December 25, it seems like we’ve been inundated by ads counting down our “shopping days.” Even the way we conduct our Advent calendar makes it seem like everything ends on Christmas Day, but that’s not the way it’s always been in the Christmas church.
In fact, the “Twelve Days of Christmas” actually represent the twelve days from December 25 to January 5 (the day before Epiphany, which marks the Magi’s visit to the Baby Jesus). This season has traditionally been one of celebration to follow the Advent season of reflection leading up to the birth of Christ. Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night (c. 1601) served as entertainment during the festive season between Christmas and Epiphany, and the familiar song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (published c. 1780, with probably earlier roots) highlights the celebration that can continue throughout the season of Christmastide; just don’t ask me to remember the gifts for each day.
Now, I’m not advocating more shopping (though there are some good post-Christmas sales) or more parties for those who may already be wearied by a hectic holiday season. But if the buildup to Christmas leaves you feeling worn out, take heart in the ancient traditions that remind us (whether we choose to celebrate them or not) that there’s always more. Here’s hoping that your Christmas Days were filled with peace and joy, and that your Christmastides will raise and rejuvenate your spirits.