December 29, 2012

Holiday Cheer - 12 Days of Christmas

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By Anna Kathryn Lanier

Okay, here’s a pet peeve of mine….those who don’t know when the twelve days of Christmas are. These days I’m seeing all sorts of references to the Twelve Days of Christmas before Christmas: get free books, recipes, or enter a contest. The only problem is that the Twelve Days of Christmas are not the twelve days BEFORE Christmas. They are the twelve days AFTER Christmas. This mixed-up reference, is to me, as maddening as those who object to Christmas decorations before Halloween. We are putting one celebration before another.

Part of this confusion comes from people who are not part of a liturgical church tradition. This is not a bad thing, it’s just a misunderstanding of when and what the Twelve Days are all about. The churches that follow a liturgical year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost) have set the time-line for the celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas….the Christmas season, which is from December 25th through January 5th, the day before the Epiphany or the traditional day of celebration for the visit of the Three Kings to the baby Jesus.

In some cultures, Christmas is celebrated as a holy day, without the exchange of gifts. Gifts are instead exchanged on Epiphany or, in some cases, a gift a day is exchanged during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Epiphany, January 6th, as said, is the observation of the day the Magi arrived to pay homage to the Christ child. They brought their gifts for the new-born king. In the liturgical year, it is the beginning of the Epiphany season, the time before Lent starts with its forty days of self-deprivation.

No doubt, you’ve heard of Mardi Gras and the big parties held around the world in observance of it. A traditional time of celebration and revelry. One goodie often found at this time is a king cake, a reference to the three kings. This time of celebration is held during Epiphany Season, and ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Ah, but I digress, though I did want to show how the year follows one thing after another. It helps to explain when the correct The Twelve Days of Christmas fall. The Liturgical Year starts with the First Sunday of Advent, four Sundays before Christmas Day. For 2012, that ‘new year’s day’ was December 2nd. From then until Christmas Day, the liturgical church is in the season of Advent. The season of Christmas starts with Christmas Day and goes for twelve days. January 5th is often referred to as Twelfth Night. In some traditions, it marks the removal of Christmas decorations and involves feasting.

I’m also sure you’ve heard of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. The origin of this song is in dispute, but the meaning behind it doesn’t seem to be. The items given to the ‘singer’ of the song are not as simple as they appear. The do, in fact, refer to God’s grace.

Ace Collins in “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” explains the meanings behind the gifts:

The “true love” giving the gifts represents the pure love of God. Each gift represents a major doctrine of the Catholic faith.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge represents the courage and devotion of Christ dying for his people. A mother partridge will lure predators away from her chicks, even sacrificing her life for them. The pear tree symbolizes the wooden cross upon which Jesus died.

Two Turtle Doves
This represents the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Doves also symbolize truth and peace.

Three French Hens
French hens were the food of kings in sixteenth century England. Here they represent the expensive gifts brought by the wise men to the newborn Jesus.

Four Calling Birds
These symbolize the authors of the four Gospels.

Five Gold Rings
These are the first five Old Testament books known as the Law of Moses.

Six Geese A-Laying
Here we have the six days in which God created the world. The eggs, from which new life springs, symbolize creation.

Seven Swans a-Swimming
These represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit outlined by the apostle Paul: prophesy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership and mercy. The swan, a graceful bird, symbolized these virtues.

Eight Maids A-Milking
Being a milk maid was one of the lowest jobs in sixteenth century England. Jesus came to save the poor and the humble, thus this gift represents Jesus’ love for the common people.

Nine Ladies Dancing
This dance represents the nine fruits of the spirit: love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Ten Lords A-Leaping
Here is a reminder of the Ten Commandments.

Eleven Pipers Piping
These represent the eleven faithful apostles who followed Jesus to the end and spread his message after his death. While there were twelve apostles, one betrayed Jesus.

Twelve Drummers Drumming
This is a symbol for the twelve tenets of the Catholic faith laid out in the prayer, “The Apostles’ Creed”. The drummers may provide the cadence for reciting this prayer.

Thinking you might want to give these gifts? Remember first off that the items repeat themselves. So that on the second day, it’s a gift of two turtle doves AND a partridge in a pear tree. On the third day it’s three French hens, two turtle doves and another partridge in a pear tree. So that at the end of the 12 days you’d have given 364 gifts. It will cost you $107,300 to give your true love “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gifts in 2012. Click HERE for a breakdown of the costs from USA Today.

Author Leah Smith has fantasized about her neighbor, Houston’s pro baseball player Marcus Slade, for years, but thinks it’s unlikely she’d catch the cowboy’s interest since her IQ is bigger than her bra size. Having already been hurt by a man who wanted size over substance, she’s not in a hurry to play in that ball field again.

When an unexpected opportunity gets Marcus inside his favorite author’s apartment, he’s not about to let a second chance at love pass him by. Their attraction is quick and electric and has him instantly thinking about something more long-term. But when a woman from his past intrudes, his hopes of a cozy Christmas with Leah are buried beneath her cold shoulder.  

Risking a strikeout, Marcus has one chance left...go for the grand slam of his life and crash Leah's annual Christmas Eve party in hopes of convincing her she’s this Cowboy’s Dream. 
Unedited Excerpt:
Leah closed the book and handed it to him. Once again, their fingers brushed and heat sizzled up her arm.
He stared at her hand a moment, then cleared his throat. Raising his gaze to her face, he smiled. “So, how are you going to celebrate?”
“Celebrate? Oh, I hadn’t thought about it.” She glanced around the kitchen. She hadn’t shopped in over a week. When on a deadline, fast food worked best. She lifted her hands palm-up and frowned. “I don’t have a beer, let alone a wine cooler.”
He went slack-jawed. “You don’t have a beer?”
“No, not even a light beer. Though I might have some tequila about.” She glanced toward a cabinet near her bare Christmas tree, then back.
He stared, squint-eyed, at her Christmas tree. “Expecting elves to decorate for you?”
She came around the counter to stand beside him, then wished she hadn’t. Forget the tequila. His body heat warmed her through the jogging suit and his aftershave intoxicated her. She blew out a slow breath. “No, aside from the fact I’ve been under a deadline, I’m a traditionalist.”
He glanced her way, blue eyes sparkled with curiosity. “A traditionalist?”
“Hmmm, yes. I decorate on Christmas Eve and celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, December twenty-fifth through January fifth.”
He leaned a hip against the granite bar. “Do you exchange gifts every day then, too?”
She shrugged. “When I have someone to exchange with.”
“And you won’t this year?”
Great, now she not only appeared to be a waif, she’d sound like one, too. “No. My parents are in Australia doing an archeological dig. They won’t be back until the middle of February. I’m an only child.”
“An archeological dig?”
“Let’s just say I had a very unusual upbringing. I suppose that’s why I enjoy writing historical novels. I’ve been to many of the places I write about in my books.”
“No kidding? That sounds exciting.” He propped an elbow on the bar and leaned toward her. “Growing up on the ranch as I did, I never went anywhere outside Texas until I played ball for college.”
She chuckled. “Not me. By the time I started high school, I had more stamps in my passport than most people have underwear.”
His gaze slid lazily down her body. A hot shiver of desire swept through her at the glimmer of interest in his eyes.
“Well, I know one way to celebrate.”
Had his voice dropped an octave? “Do you now?” Had hers risen one?
He pushed off the counter and stepped toward her. “Hmmm, yes, ma’am. Change into some celebrating clothes and I’ll be back in an hour. I know a great restaurant to celebrate grand well as book births.” 

“A Cowboy’s Dream by Anna Kathryn Lanier is a quick romantic read that is sure to appeal to lovers of the happily-ever-after ending. This story twists traditional roles and makes it the hero who believes in romance and the heroine who is wary.” ~Whitney, Fallen Angels Review, 4 Angels
“I recommend this book to anyone who wants a feel-good, compact book with a lot of inner parts to hold the readers’ interest.” ~Brenda, The Romance Studio, 4 ½ Hearts

The Twelve Days of Christmas post first appeared on the following blogs:
Sweethearts of the West 12/2/2010
Seduced by History 12/19/2011

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Anna Kathryn Lanier
Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester


Amy S. said...

I never knew that about the 12 days of Christmas. Thank you for telling us about it today. I didn't even know how many gifts it would end up being in all total and especially didn't know about the costs. A Cowboy's Dream sounds great.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Interesting tidbit. I never knew that about 12 Days of Christmas. And wow, it would end up being quite costly. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Preston said...

Thank you for the wonderful post. I did not know all of that that.


Caroline Clemmons said...

Anna Kathryn, thanks for posting this. I always found it odd that people didn't know when the 12 days began and ended. We leave our tree up until January 6th.

lorimeehan said...

That was a fun post. Thanks for all the information about The twelve days of Christmas.
The book looks good. I'm going to look it up on amazon right know.