Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Twelve Days and Beyond

Welcome back! It was been a delightful break from this space as we celebrated the wonders of the season.

I love that the Church gifts us twelve days to immerse ourselves in the beauty and joy of Christmas Day.

Our family finds it pretty simple to celebrate through the whole Twelve Days -- I think it's because we have kept our tone in Advent penitential and preparatory. We don't do Christmasy things during Advent if we can at all help it. We bake cookies, but we don't eat them. We buy gifts and wrap them up, and there they sit. We wait on parties, on outings, on fancy food, on even decorations.

This is not the only way to observe the season, of course. BUT when you have spent Advent as a Little Lent, you need more than one day to feast afterward! It's a welcome stretch of delight in the Word made flesh.

That said, our Twelve Days is nothing all that complex. Little special gifts of activities or outings. Plenty of time for family and rest.  During those Twelve Days, we do all the things everyone else was doing during December: singing along to carols, hot cocoa, Christmas movies, crafting, reading under covers by the fireplace, baking together. (A friend recommended this post, and I was very heartened to see that Auntie Leila's celebration so mimics our own. A lovely post with rich and simple ideas.)

In the past we have done an Epiphany party, which is such a perfect time to invite friends over to celebrate! Lots of cultural traditions to draw on. This year, we did a couple outings to visit nearby family and opened a small gift each day. Our theme was card and board games, and we found a few real gems. (The favorites so far are Bold and Qwixx, both new to me but lots of fun!)

We moved the kings a bit each day, journeying along with them. We read Christmas poetry and continued our Messiah readings.

Another wonderful reason for the Twelve Days -- you aren't "behind" if you don't finish up your Morning Basket plans before Christmas! ;)

Then Epiphany arrived, the end of the Christmas Octave. This year Gianna gifted the family a lovely Epiphany ornament that we hung up that morning, and we had our Procession of the Three Kings and a fancy dinner and house blessing. It all felt festive.

And the rest of the world left Christmastide behind. But we didn't! From Epiphany to the Baptism of Our Lord, we are still deep in the season. And beyond that -- for the rest of January, we celebrate the fruits of His Divine Infancy.

When the rest of the world has packed up and moved along, we are there keeping vigil with Our Lady, pondering the audacious humility that is the Incarnation.

We go back to school, to work -- and we aim to maintain childlike simplicity in the world, where we're called. We maintain a Christmas spirit in the context of everyday life. We look to the model of the Divine Child as we encounter the challenges of our vocation. We ease back in, hopefully maintaining the lessons of humility and simplicity that we have learned, to "ordinary" life.

We begin to pack up the decorations; like Christ, we take on a new flesh, and our home does too. By Candlemas, we're officially turning our eyes toward Lent.

The cycle of feast and fast in our lives as Catholics blessedly mimics the ebbs and flows of the natural world and of salvation history. Through the liturgical year, we enter more deeply into the human condition as we remember: nothing is eternal this side of heaven, everything changes but God.

When we know that, when we aim at emptying ourselves to allow the light of the Divine Mystery to shine through us, we can elevate the ordinary to extraordinary.

"But it takes the presence of children to help us to realise the idea of the Eternal Child. The Dayspring is with the children, and we think their thoughts and are glad in their joy; and every mother knows out of her own heart's fulness what the Birth at Bethlehem means. Those of us who have not children catch echoes. We hear the wondrous story read in church, the waits chant the tale, the church-bells echo it, the years that are no more come back to us, and our hearts are meek and mild, glad and gay, loving and tender, as those of little children; but, alas, only for the little while occupied by the passing thought. Too soon the dreariness of daily living settles down upon us again, and we become a little impatient, do we not, of the Christmas demand of joyousness."

"But it is not so where there are children. The old, old story has all its first freshness as we tell it to the eager listeners; as we listen to it ourselves with their vivid interest it becomes as real and fresh to us as it is to them. Hard thoughts drop away like scales from our eyes; we are young once more with the children's young life, which, we are mysteriously made aware, is the life eternal. What a mystery it is!" (Charlotte Mason's Parents and Children)

"And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them. Which when the disciples saw, they rebuked them. But Jesus, calling them together, said: Suffer children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not enter into it." (Luke 18:15-17)


  1. Celeste, your family traditions are so beautiful! Your words are echoing in my heart! Thank you for sharing them :)

    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Mariana! :)

  2. This sounds so beautiful! Not Catholic here, but I love reading about the ritual and rhythm you have in your traditions.

    1. I converted as an adult, and not having grown up with these practices, I am still in awe of how beautiful they are. <3 I'm glad they encourage you too! :)

    2. Oh Celeste, you converted as an adult!! I'm in awe of your knowledge and traditions around the Catholic faith! I grew up Catholic but didn't practice my faith until my early 20's. It's been such a joy in my life but sometimes I feel like I'm trying to catch up or make up for lost time and I loose sight of the big picture. You've been a source of inspiration to me! Thank you so much for keeping this blog!

  3. This sounds so beautiful! Not Catholic here, but I love reading about the ritual and rhythm you have in your traditions.

  4. I just love the idea of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. *sigh* It really is so beautiful. We're not catholic, as you know :), but I really see the value in savoring all of it. It feels a bit overwhelming though! Every year, I think, *this* is the year we'll do it, then it doesn't happen. I just need to be more intentional and maybe have a plan in place ahead of time. Then it wouldn't seem like such a big deal, you know?

    This post is really helpful and I'm saving it to refer to later. :)

    1. Hi Catie! I know it can SOUND overwhelming, but for me it is actually LESS overwhelming to celebrate the 12 Days. I am able to let go of trying to make all the beautiful Christmas memories in one day and rest in the season. We keep it super simple, so I don't feel like pressure to make 12 days of fun or anything...most of it is just saving things most people would have done during Advent and doing them during Christmas instead. ;) And just enjoying my kids. :) I hope it helps! Merry Christmas! :)