A lighted garland crowned the archway between the kitchen and living room where a festive balsam tree glittered and twinkled. My husband Arnie and son-in-law Mike sat on the couch next to the tree watching a football game on television. My daughter Niki and I sat at the table in the kitchen. Arnie held six-month-old Jon in his arms while Anne, my two-year-old granddaughter, ran between the two rooms playing with her toys.
A tea kettle on the stove began to whistle. Niki jumped to her feet. Placing a steaming mug of hot water and a tea bag in front of me, she sat down with a cup of her own and commented, “I love the holiday traditions I grew up with, but I would like to have some new traditions that I are my own.”
Taking a bite of Christmas cookie and a very small sip of the hot tea, I questioned, “What sort of new traditions are you thinking of?”
Pushing a library book towards me, Niki launched into a list of ideas, concluding with, “This book had so many good ideas that it was hard to pick which one I wanted to start for my family. The top one on my list is to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas.”
Cupping my hands around the delightfully warm mug I asked, “How do you plan to do that?”
My daughter had obviously formed a game plan. She detailed, “I want to buy 12 very small gifts for each of the children. Then, every night between Christmas Eve and the Epiphany, they will have a package to open.”
Nodding, I added enthusiastically, “And I can give you 12 boxes with a small yummy treat in each one. Anne and Jon will look forward to opening one each night.”
Eighteen years have passed since Niki announced that she wanted to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. Each year she has small gifts for each of her eight children for all 12 nights. Each year I supplement those gifts with things like tangerines, sugary breakfast cereals, (a rare treat for them) sausages, bags of dried fruit or nuts.
The period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for not only the birth of Christ at Christmas, but His return at the Second Coming. The 12 days of Christmas are days counted from Christmas to January 6th, the Epiphany.
The Epiphany, sometimes called, “Little Christmas” commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The Magi, also known as the three kings, traveled from the far east, following a star their studies said would lead them to a newborn King. Melchior, Casper and Balthazar are said to be the names of these wise men who adored Jesus and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The other night I lined up the 12 boxes I use each year on the floor in my dining room. The goodies I’d bought to fill the boxes were piled on the table. I pondered, “Tammie, do you think we should start off with the bag of oranges?”
My younger daughter enthusiastically agreed, “Yes. Then for the next day put in a box of cereal. We have two boxes of cereal so I think we should put one in day six or day ten.”
Selecting a block of cheese from the table, I said, “I’ll put this in box number three. The crackers and dip will go into four and eight. Then the sausage in five and eleven. Then we can put the nuts and sesame chips in the remaining ones.”
After taping the boxes shut and stacking them in the order to be opened, Tammie and I sighed with satisfaction. Not only were our Christmas preparations done for the year, but we had contributed to Niki’s new tradition.