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12 Days of Christmas—Family Edition

12 Days of Christmas—Family Edition

The days leading up to Christmas are filled with anticipation and wonder. Then before we know it, poof! Just like that, it’s over, and we’re left looking around at the aftereffects of a day that once held precious memories. Torn and tattered gift wrap streams across the living room floor, leftovers fill the fridge, and holiday music just isn’t as fun to listen to anymore. The day after Christmas can feel a little… well, disheartening and rather gloomy.

While we can carry the heart of Christmas with us all year long, it still can bring us (and especially our children) to a place where the day after Christmas meets the holiday blues. After all, the magical and whimsical wonders have calmed down, family have left and headed back home, and the sweatpants start to feel tight from all those extra sugar cookies, it can cause even the “most jolly” to fall into somewhat of a slump. And as Dr. Suess likes to say, “un-slumping yourself is not fun.”

So, maybe before we even reach Christmas, we get a game plan – by starting a new tradition! Oh, and this tradition consists of a Christmas song! Yep, "The 12 Days of Christmas," to be precise! While this song may declare gifts of exotic birds and a bunch of ladies and men leaping, dancing, and piping, the true meaning behind the song goes so much deeper than that. The history behind this favorite and the infamous tune is rather interesting, and if you are a history buff, it may be worth your time to uncover the real meaning behind the song as a family. 

But as for another tradition, we will use the song as a way to unlock 12 days of Christmas to continue the spirit of fanciful fun. It will begin on Christmas day and lead to the day of epiphany (also known as Three Kings Day), the day the Magi first meet baby Jesus and baptize Him. So, there is a lot still to celebrate! 

Once the 25th of December arrives, gather up the fam and get ready to embrace the new year with a heart full of gratitude and generosity. Are you ready to continue the spirit of Christmas? 

Here’s your plan:

December 25 – The first day of Christmas is the gift of a partridge in a pear tree. This image is meant to represent Christ on the cross. This day we honor and celebrate the birth of our King and what this precious day means to us as our Savior entered the world. Read Luke 2 aloud and let everyone share what this day means to them. You might be surprised by your little ones' answers; some are truly adorable and so innocent. When our oldest daughter was about four years old, she said Christmas was Jesus and Santa’s birthday, and she was glad that she got presents. Still, laugh about that one!

December 26 – The second day of Christmas is the gift of two turtle doves. This is meant to represent the Old and New Testaments. As you begin to reflect on yesterday and the celebration of Jesus’ birth, offer two gifts of praise to our Lord. Thank God for two things He blessed you with this past year. Craft idea: paint a picture of those things.

December 27 - The third day of Christmas is the gift of three French hens. These birds represent faith, hope, and love that are taught throughout the New Testament. Personally, I also like to see it as our God consisting of three equally divine “persons” consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 29:19). So, on this day, you can choose to see our God of faith, hope, and love by talking with your family about what those terms mean and how we can share them with others this coming year. An interactive way for children to see this is by taking three different colors of play dough and rolling them into balls. Explain that each holds a special place as God. One as Father, One as Son, One as Holy Spirit. Then roll them together and show how they come together as a team – three divine Beings, One God.  

December 28 - The fourth day of Christmas is the gift of four calling birds. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four books/gospels found in the New Testament. These men all shared a similar story and then were called to go out and share the good news of Jesus Christ. From the discussion yesterday, consider those families you wish to share the love and good news of Jesus with this year. Then think of a way your family can meet a need of those families going into the new year. It could be bringing in groceries for an elderly neighbor or providing a meal to a sick member at church.

December 29 - The fifth day of Christmas is the gift of five golden rings. This part of the song has a “ring” to it, literally, but the actual meaning goes back to the first five books of the Bible in the Old Testament. These were the laws and instructions given by God. Knowing that we will sin and slip into the patterns of this world, take your heart to God for five minutes today to be still and ask Him for areas in your life in which you can hand over to Him and relinquish control. If you have younger children, sit with them and guide them on how to be still and pray. It may not last five minutes, but they will grow to understand that by being still and quiet, they are seeking God with their whole heart (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

December 30 - The sixth day of Christmas is the gift of six geese a' laying. The six days of creation. This is a great day to make a craft of what each day represents. Fold a piece of paper into six squares and draw each day of creation, thanking God. Read the story in Genesis 1.

December 31 - The seventh day of Christmas is the gift of seven swans a' swimming. The image of these beautiful swans represents the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2-3, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10). While there are actually more than seven gifts mentioned in the Bible, these are the seven mentioned in the verses above: wisdom, knowledge, counsel, faith, healing, prophecy, and teaching/ministry. Talk about some of these gifts and ask each family member what gifts they believe God has given them or what gifts they believe they may be able to use to glorify God one day. A fun activity would be to play charades and act out the gifts.

January 1 - The eighth day of Christmas is the gift of eight maids a' milking. This was to signify the eight blessings found when Jesus taught on a mountainside to His disciples. Read Matthew 5:1-10 aloud. Discuss as a family what Jesus meant by The Beatitudes and how we can be a blessing to others.

January 2 - The ninth day of Christmas is the gift of nine ladies dancing. Galatians 5:22 points out the nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Make a crossword puzzle with the fruits of the spirit. There are blank ones online you can fill in and complete as a family.

January 3 - The tenth day of Christmas is the gift of ten lords a' leaping, representing the ten commandments. Can your family name them? What about in the right order (Exodus 20:1-7)? There are some cute and fun songs online to help your children learn these commandments. Find one to sing together, or come up with a jingle as a family. 

January 4 - The eleventh day of Christmas is the gift of eleven pipers piping. While there were twelve disciples, when Judas betrayed Jesus and ended up taking his own life, we see the other eleven, while definitely not perfect, choose to follow Jesus and carry the gospel message after His death. Discuss the Great Commission and how we are to make disciples of the nations (Matthew 28:16-20). Talk about what that means as followers of Jesus.

January 5 - The twelfth day of Christmas is the final gift of twelve drummers drumming. The Apostles’ Creed, or the basic statement of our faith, declares what we believe and Who we put our hope and trust in. On this final day, before the epiphany, as a family, come up with a “family creed” or motto to strive to live out this year. Back it by a Bible verse. What do you want your family to live by?

Examples:

Show love and kindness. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Treat others the way you want to be treated. – Matthew 6:12 

Remember who you are and Who you follow. – Hebrews 13:7

Be the light. – Ephesians 5:8

Write it on paper and have every family member sign it. Place it somewhere for a reminder of what your family stands for.

May the season between Christmas and epiphany be one filled with precious moments and memories your family will forever hold dear.

Photo Credit: ©SWN

Alicia SearlAlicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy.  Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at aliciasearl.com and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.