1 —A Nativity Prank
One of our family Christmas traditions lasted twelve days! We prepared for Jesus’ birth with a fun “Twelve Days before Christmas” project. Each year we “targeted” one neighborhood family. Starting on December 14, we secretly delivered a single Nativity set figure to that family. At different times during the next twelve days, we hid behind bushes, tiptoed across the porch, and delivered our gift. After ringing the doorbell, one of my siblings ran like a cheetah to the nearby idling car and we sped away! We soon developed the “doorbell ditch” stealth skills of seasoned pranksters. As the twelve days wound to an end, our sprinting speed accelerated because the “target family” tried to anticipate our arrival. Finally, on December 25, we delivered the central Nativity figure—Baby Jesus.
Though our tradition did not line up with the Advent or Epiphany calendar, we delighted in the activity. Anticipation increased each day as we dropped off the small package that contained a different Nativity character. After our own identity was finally discovered, the target family thanked us profusely for the pleasant reminder that the twelve gifts brought to their Christmas season.
2—A Silly Song
During the coming Christmas season you will likely sing the familiar (and interminable) “Twelve Days of Christmas” song. Originally published in England in 1780, the popular lyrics describe twelve very unusual gifts: partridges in pear trees, milkmaids, pipers, etc. Children enjoy imagining the French hens, maids-a-milking, and lords-a-leaping all frolicking about on that final day! (Do the math: the number of gifts during those twelve days adds up to 364. According to the annual PNC Christmas Price Index, the 2017 cost of one set of each gift amounts to $34,130.99. Ouch!)
Have you ever wondered why a “true love” would bestow these bizarre gifts on his or her beloved? Though no one knows for sure, some people believe that the gifts originally represented essential Church beliefs such as the four Gospels, eight Beatitudes, nine Fruits of the Spirit, or Ten Commandments. The twelve increasingly grand and numerous gifts culminate in Epiphany, the day Christians celebrate the arrival of Magi in Bethlehem to present their gifts to Jesus. It is possible that the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song carried a cryptic message to honor Christ’s birth.
3—A Family Challenge
During the Christmas season, the flurry of various functions makes it all-too-easy to lose your focus. If you are seeking a priority shift for 2017, try this family-friendly Christmas activity. Take a few minutes each day to make family memories, stir up some joy, thankfulness, generosity, and fun with this “twelve days of Christmas” challenge! (Download a printable version here.)
For the twelve days of Christmas…
- Tell one special person, “Christmas proves that God loves you—and so do I!”
- Read chapter two of Luke’s Gospel together as a family.
- Research the symbolic significance of the three gifts wise men brought to Jesus (Matthew 2:11).
- Harken to four herald angels and sing “Glory to the newborn King” together.
- Distribute Christmas cookies to five neighbors (with an appreciation note).
- Make a six-pointed Christmas star for your tree (use two equilateral triangles).
- Write seven different names of Jesus on candy canes; hang them prominently on your Christmas tree.
- Pray for eight countries whose people need to hear about Jesus!
- Use gestures or facial expressions to show the nine different “fruits of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).
- Find ten items in the house you don’t need; donate them to charity.
- As a family, share eleven different reasons you are thankful for the season.
- Use a twelve-piece Nativity set to retell the Christmas story in your own words.