Today we are on the cusp of an old year and a new year according to the calendar. I am not sure that 24 hours makes a lot of difference relative to time, but it is a point when we seem to put a marker down or hypothetically build a wall to neatly package all the things that happened over the last 366 days as memories and to look forward to the next 365 as an opportunity to start with a clean slate, an empty inbox, a blank (well fairly blank diary) in which to create new memories.
So welcome to 2017 – and the chance to think about making some changes in our lives. I suspect like me, one of the changes will be a resolution to stop eating all the Christmas goodies that seemed to appear (and disappear rather rapidly) and get back to some sort of normality. It’s very hard though, especially in the twelve days after Christmas. These dozen days have also become a segment of time in which our recovery and rehabilitation from the excesses of the season can take place before we’re back into full working mode – yes, I am aware that for many this period may have been somewhat briefer, but for the church they were also a significant way of marking the time between Christmas Day and Epiphany on the 6th January.
We now know it mainly through the popular carol which was published in England in 1780; however, it has been suggested that the phrases and strange list of gifts was a ‘catechism song’ which originated in the sixteenth century, to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith – a memory aid, when to be caught with anything in writing that indicated that you were a Catholic was a criminal offence.
In reverse order, the 12 drummers drumming related to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed and the 11 pipers piping represented the eleven faithful apostles. The 10 lords a-leaping are the ten commandments and 9 ladies dancing (obviously filled with the Holy Spirit) are the nine fruits produced. Then there at 8 maids a-milking for the eight beatitudes and the 7 swans a-swimming are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
It starts to get a little easier with the 6 geese a-laying giving us the six days of creation and the 5 golden rings representing the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch. The 4 calling birds are the four gospels and their writers followed by the 3 French hens a little more thoughtful for Faith, Hope and Charity, theological virtues. Which leaves us with 2 turtle doves equalling the Old and New Testaments…
… and the partridge on the pear tree representing Christ upon the cross. Which leaves us with God as my true love, the giver of these fabulous gifts and me – or you or anyone who is open to receive the Christian faith.
How then did I or do I intend celebrating these twelve days of Christmas. Well, the first day was a good day to go to church and celebrate hearing the timeless story once again – then home for lunch, where we didn’t have partridge or pears but turkey followed by a delicious plum pudding. On the second day I got up early before everyone was up, and took the chance to spend a few moments reading my bible and watched the pair of pigeons, who nest in the fir tree next door, one of whom is very plump, and who love to strut up and down the fence, before getting back into the swing of the festivities.
By the third day I was already fed up with cold turkey and decided to have some scrambled eggs for breakfast before making plans on the fourth day to go and call on those members of the family that we didn’t have a chance to visit before Christmas. The fifth day was bound to be exciting as we had some wonderful news just before Christmas about a family engagement and it’s never too early to think about wedding plans. Then on the sixth day my husband, David and I took Molly, our Welsh terrier on a long walk down to the sea front where we recently saw a flock of Canadian geese gathering on the shoreline at dusk.
The seventh day is today – New Year’s Eve – and let’s hope my head won’t be swimming too much at the party we’re having with the family, still there’s always plenty of milk in the fridge to drink on the eighth day! Maybe on the ninth or tenth day it would be a good time to think about going to one of those Zumba classes, but I can’t see me persuading David to join one.
I note in my diary that we’ve arranged for our boiler and central heating pipes to be serviced on the eleventh day – tenuous I know – but not as much as the twelfth day, when the car goes in for its service and the brake drums need replacing!
Well, that’s a light-hearted look at what my twelve days of Christmas might look like and it does bring me nicely to the thirteenth day – Epiphany – the day when we celebrate the revelation of Christ through the gifts of Magi or Wise Men. So I hope and pray that the many gifts and blessing you may have received during this Christmas season continue to be revealed to you, and in you, and by you in the coming year
Happy New Year and God bless