by Father Mark Goldasich
Hooray! It’s Christmastime! Let the celebration begin!
What?!? For most people, Christmas means one specific day.
But even when it is over, it’s still the Christmas season, those famous Twelve Days of Christmas. (We’ll actually get an extra day of Christmas since Epiphany will be on Jan. 7 this time around.)
These Twelve Days are truly a gift to Christians and, if lived out, they can also be of great benefit to all whom we meet. People don’t have trouble celebrating Christmas Day, the first of the Twelve, with festivities and generosity.
But what of the other days of Christmas? How can we keep the spirit thriving?
I’d suggest adopting the following practices, based on the saints of the Twelve Days:
- Dec. 26: St. Stephen, the first martyr. This day is also known as Boxing Day in the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. “Boxing” refers to the custom of giving the house staff the day off, as well as a gift of new clothes or money. Also on that day, the poor boxes in churches were opened up and the money given to the needy. To celebrate, give a small gift to your hair stylist, day care provider, mail carrier or someone who serves your needs in some way.
- Dec. 27: St. John the Evangelist. In honor of this Gospel writer, today would be a great day to write thank-you notes for gifts received at Christmas.
- Dec. 28: Holy Innocents, martyrs. To commemorate these children killed by Herod the Great, send a donation to an organization that opposes abortion or to a group that works with abused children. Or offer the gift of your time to foster parents, to give them a break from their duties.
- Dec. 29: St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr. To mark this saint’s memorial — a man who chose to stand up to the machinations of King Henry II in England — contact your elected representatives in some fashion to give a voice to the concerns of immigrants, the oppressed, the hungry and the poor.
Dec. 30: With no specific saint on this Saturday, plan a visit to an elderly relative or to a local nursing home or assisted living community.
Dec. 31: Holy Family. Attend Mass as a family and head out to breakfast or brunch afterwards. Put aside cellphones and actually talk face to face. Spend the afternoon playing board games or watching a movie together.
Jan. 1: This solemnity devoted to Mary, the Holy Mother of God, is also the World Day of Prayer for Peace. Use the day to make overtures to resolve any conflicts within families, neighborhoods or parishes. Ask the Blessed Mother for guidance with this.
- Jan. 2: Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen. Since these learned bishops added to the church’s understanding of the Holy Spirit, spend the day telling family members, co-workers and friends about the talents you see the Spirit has blessed them with.
- Jan. 3: Today, we honor the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Watch your language this day and use your words to compliment and encourage others.
- Jan. 4: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Use this day, dedicated to the patron saint of Catholic schools, to write a note of encouragement to your child’s Catholic school or religious ed teacher . . . and maybe even offer to volunteer for them sometime.
- Jan. 5: St. John Neumann, bishop. On the memorial of this gifted linguist, schedule time to interact with recent immigrants and strive to learn a few phrases in their language.
- Jan. 6: St. André Bessette, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, was a doorkeeper at a Canadian college for 40 years and known for his miraculous healings. Invite people over to your home today and practice the gift of hospitality.
- Jan. 7: Epiphany. To celebrate this feast of the Magi, exchange small gifts with family members or friends.
Keeping these Twelve Days festive and holy will end this year well and begin the new one positively. And let’s pray that our spirit of generosity and service will ooze out from there, transforming 2018 into the Twelve Months of Christmas.