How We'll Christmas the 12 Days Through

How We'll Christmas the 12 Days Through - For the Birds - by Leanna Coyle-Carr

I woke up this morning in a bit of a funk. I felt aimless and overwhelmed at the same time. It’s still Christmas, but the “big stuff” is over.

Our huge Carolina Christmas tour de family wrapped up on Christmas Eve, our church sang Joy to the World to the top of its lungs that night, and then we got to host the Carr Family Christmas for the very first time in our home on Christmas Day.

All the shopping, wrapping, prepping, and planning is done.

And yet Christmas is here. Christmas is still here, and as I type there are 10 more days of it stretching out in front of me.

How do we celebrate and revel in this holy hootenanny of a festival when the world’s moved on?

How do we celebrate and revel in this holy hootenanny of a festival when the world’s moved on? I believe there is more to Christmas than opening presents and feeling nostalgic, but how do I live that out?

Well, I’ve been thinking and here’s where I’m at.


How We’ll Christmas the 12 Days Through:

Below is a rough outline of the Twelve Days of Christmas and what we are planning on doing, eating, remembering, or trying on each one.

Celebration is just as much a spiritual discipline as anticipation. We get to meet God in the FUN of faith as much as we do in the fast of it.

My intention this Christmas is to show up to each of these 12 Days and receive the gift of the present moment. I will cultivate cheer and frivolity as I practice believing that Christ has really come, gloria in excelcis Deo!

Anytime Christmastide Activities:

  • Resting, enjoying the peace of Christmas - especially if it involves holiday jammies

  • Caroling/listening to Christmas music

  • Feasting! Dessert, hot cocoa, favorite meals, etc.

  • Watching Christmas movies – We always start with The Nativity Story and end with Elf. ;) Many, many others between.

  • Lighting all the candles in the house

  • Playing games

  • Gathering with friends

  • Traveling Magi – The three fellows will travel around our house during the 12 days to arrive at the manger on Epiphany. Click here for some pictures of their tomfoolery in past years…

Day 1 – Christmas Day (retrospective)

On Christmas Day I woke to Aaron in the kitchen preparing a surprise challah French Toast bake. I had a rough night (#pregnancy), and he rose to make the magic happen. God bless this partner of mine! I am humbled and transformed by his patriarchy-stomping, whole personhood every single day; this morning was especially moving, though, because of all the pressure females bear during the holidays.

How We'll Christmas the 12 Days Through - For the Birds - by Leanna Coyle-Carr

After breakfast we exchanged gifts, cranked Christmas music for the first time, and started getting ready to host the Carr family Christmas lunch. It was such a beautiful experience to pull out the Christmas decorations and find places for them one by one. I cried in the joy of it.

How We'll Christmas the 12 Days Through - For the Birds - by Leanna Coyle-Carr

A new tradition we tried this year was decorating our tree on Christmas Day. We got our tree the week before Advent 1 and dressed it in lights, and then thought we’d save the decorating for a special Sunday a few weeks later (as I mentioned in this post). Well, Sundays came and went and it just did not feel like time for ornaments and tinsel. So we decided to invite our family to help us decorate the tree on Christmas Day in response to the coming of Emmanuel.

How We'll Christmas the 12 Days Through - For the Birds - by Leanna Coyle-Carr

Perhaps one of the sweetest little memories I’ll carry forward is the experience of hanging ornaments beside my mother-in-law.

Our Christmas Lunch Menu: Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder with assorted BBQ sauces, Carr Family Mac’n’Cheese, Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower, and all the desserts. YUM.

Day 2 – St. Stephen’s Day (retrospective)

We finished the French Toast at breakfast and began a work day. That night Aaron read a sonnet from one of his Christmas gifts in remembrance of the first martyr, St. Stephen (Acts 6:8-7:60).

We also devoured a pizza supper and gave Good King Wenceslas a hearty sing.

Day 3 – St. John’s Day

Today I’m remembering St. John the Beloved, the disciple who teaches us to see Jesus as our Friend. I’m celebrating belovedness by going with my love to see a Marvel movie—a story that bears messages of hope, good, and calling. Also, superheroes, movies, and superhero movies are among Aaron’s top favorite things.

Today feels like a prime opportunity to speak folks’ love languages.

Day 4 – Feast of Holy Innocents

Celebration does not mean a dislocation from the realities of the world.

( Massacre of the Innocents  by Léon Cogniet, public domain)

(Massacre of the Innocents by Léon Cogniet, public domain)

On the Feast of Holy Innocents, the remembrance of those little ones Herod slaughtered in his manic rage for power (Matthew 2:16-18), I will remember lost children, the young ones the powerful ignore and denigrate. And I will celebrate those on the front lines advocating and caring for the least of these.

Perhaps I might also get into some mischief. According to one source, Mexico has a tradition much like April Fools Day on Holy Innocents. Makes sense to me. Why not stir up some goodhearted fun in the name of children who never got the chance?

Day 5 – Thomas Becket

We celebrate our brother St. Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canterbury (c. 1162) on the fifth day of Christmas. Rogue knights murdered Thomas in a church after he opposed the King of England. Thomas stood up for the rights of the faithful in the face of empire.

(Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

(Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

To celebrate the courage of Christ so displayed in the life of brother Thomas Becket I’m going to make English scones to go with our breakfast and perhaps a pot pie for supper, savoring the story and soaking up strength to go and do likewise.

Day 6 – Feast of the Holy Family

This year Aaron’s preaching in worship and we have a precious family of friends joining us for lunch right after. These friends are in from New England and it will be the first time I get to meet their youngest member.

A family meal with loved ones seems like the perfect way to celebrate the connection, fidelity, and trust so found between Mary, Joseph, and Jesus!

Day 7 – Hogmanay (NYE)

We celebrate the liturgical new year pretty hardcore around here (the night before Advent 1, usually in November), but we also commemorate the secular New Year. This time around I hope we can sink our roots into Aaron’s Scottish heritage with a little Hogmanay celebration—complete with “first footing” our neighbors!

Remembering our particularity in a whitewashed world is one way we try for incarnational love. Plus, it’s fun!

Day 8 – Mary, Mother of God

Hopefully we will be able to celebrate the Theotokos by making room for our own baby—we’ll set up the crib today!

Posts about Mary and motherhood:

Day 9

The ninth and eleventh days of Christmas are open. I’ll make some hot cocoa for us and bask in the light of the Christmas tree, letting the simple joy of it sink in deep.

Day 10 – Holy Name of Jesus

We’ll consider the wonder of Christ’s name, and that we get to know it, hold it, and call on it.

(Aaron with one of his favorite emblems of the Chi Ro in Nazareth, Israel.)

(Aaron with one of his favorite emblems of the Chi Ro in Nazareth, Israel.)

I think some kind of alphabet food might be in order. Maybe we will bake a pie and with “Jesus” or the Chi Ro symbol cut into the top crust? Or keep it simple and have alphabet soup? They still make that, right? Anything’s possible.

Day 11

See Day 9 above.

Day 12 – Twelfth Night

Traditionally Twelfth Night is for revelry and chicanery. We hope to invite someone new into our home for a share in our annual Magic Magi Travel Bread. We will pray God’s blessing on our home for the year at some point in the day, and it is also our custom to watch Elf (one. more. time).

2 More Days:

Epiphany – January 6th – We’ll worship with our faith community, put away the Christmas decorations, and party with a fun group from church that night.

Plough Monday – First Monday after Epiphany — It’s the traditional start of the English agricultural year. I think it could be fun to hit the ground running after the festival of Christmas and celebration of Epiphany. New year, new goals, new vigor! We will probably get our garden beds ready for early planting on this day and set some family goals.


How do you celebrate Christmas? I’d love to hear about your traditions.

Thanks for being here, beloveds.

L