Extend the "Meaning" of Christmas with the 12 Days of Christmas

So we were reading a book about the 12 Days of Christmas last December and I was really captivated by the legend behind the song.  To thwart the King back in the day, Christians wrote this song to continue telling their children the story of Jesus's birth.  I do not know if the legend is accurate or not, but I love the idea of connecting the story of Christ's birth to the traditional 12 Days of Christmas.
This is the book that inspired the post -- Thanks Aunt Fran!
Last year, we did a modified version of the activities I am sharing with you today and loved it.  Note:  These are the activities and traditions WE are cultivating for our family.  Each family is unique, and you might celebrate the days differently, but I think it is a fun way to continue celebrating.  So this year, we are still focused on scaling back the gimme gimme now now now side of Christmas while still celebrating heartily and THIS year, the 12 Days of Christmas continue the season of giving, celebration AND thanksgiving like this...

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

1.  A Partridge in a Pear Tree 

Did you know a partridge will lay down its life for its young?  On this day we talk about how Jesus lay down his life for us and also talk about how we, as mommy and daddy, would lay down our lives for our children.  Today we celebrate our parents and thank God for the gift of his son.  (appropriate for the day after Christmas!)

Object -- A Partridge Ornament (Dollar Store)

2.  Two Turtledoves

Did you know that folks used to bring two turtledoves in thanks to God when a new baby was born?  Did you know Jesus' parents most likely did this?  We celebrated a new baby in OUR family last year and every year we celebrate the siblings in our family and talk about being peaceful and supportive of each other (yes, with three brothers and a newly independent sister, peace and understanding can be hard to come by :)

Object -- Dove Figurines (Dollar Store)

3. Three French Hens

Did you know back in the day french hens were far more expensive than a regular old chicken?  They were given as nice gifts and recall to mind the gifts the wise men brought Jesus.  Today, we talk about the wise men and their generosity, but we also think of our hens.  We are thankful for our chickens and the food they provide for us.

Activity -- Take a trip to the coop and say thanks to the hens for the eggs.  (We did that last year...this year no chickens :(  We made an omelette instead!)

4.  Four Calling Birds

In the legend, the four calling birds were supposed to remind the children of the four books of the gospel, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Object -- A New Book (typically a gift from our Aunt, a story of Christmas or Christ)

5.  Five Golden Rings

In the legend, the five golden rings represent the Pentateuch, or first five books of the Bible.  We also take this chance to talk about mommy and daddy's wedding rings and celebrate marriage and our commitment to each other and to our kids.

Object -- The kids can try on our wedding rings (if they want).  I remember this being really special to me as a kid.

6.  Six Geese a Laying

Again, chickens.  Well, geese.  For us, we take this chance to again be thankful for our chickens and the eggs they produce.  An all egg dish is on the menu and we give thanks.

Activity -- Cook a giant omelette, frittata or other egg dish

7. Seven Swans-a-Swimming

Did you know a baby swan is black and ugly?  As it grows, its neck stretches and its body turns white and beautiful.  So too are we as Christians.  As God works in our heart, we grow into better people with more concern for others, more generosity and more beauty.

Activity -- Some type of craft, usually a cotton ball swan or such...

8.  Eight Maids a Milking

If we had a cow, we would celebrate it.  We don't though, so we celebrate with Eggnog ice cream each year.  I know -- a strange departure from the rest of the days.  In the legend, the milk refers to the Word of God being like milk to a baby -- feeding our soul with knowledge and wisdom.  We take this chance to celebrate and enjoy eggnog ice cream.  You CAN be a Christian focused on spiritual things and still have fun doing it, yes?

Activity -- making eggnog ice cream (or just buying some...)

9. Nine Ladies Dancing

The legend celebrates joy in Christ that makes us want to dance.  We do to -- we just do it to the tunes of Miranda Lambert.

Activity -- DANCE PARTY!

10. Lords a Leaping

The legend celebrates the 10 commandments in obedience to God.  We talk about the commandments, but then continue our joyful dance party -- Leap lords Leap!

Activity -- DANCE PARTY continues...

11. Eleven Pipers Piping

As the Pied Piper led the children with his music, we are to follow God.  We also take this chance to be thankful for music and encourage our children to make music with new sheet music, a new instrument (big or small depending...) or new music lessons.

Object -- new sheet music, guitar pick, instrument, etc.

12. Twelve Drummers Drumming

The legend focuses on following the Apostle's Creed as an army follows the beat of the drum.  We celebrate the guidance of God's word and our beliefs in God.

Activity -- The kiddos get to write out the Apostle's Creed.  We try to get them to be creative with this, but recognize that some things are good to learn, whether they include a dance party or not :)

...but the COST....

So let's add up the cost and the amount of effort you might want to put forth celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas:
  • partridge and two doves ornaments
  • a new book  (this is always a welcome gift to our family for Christmas we save until this day)
  • a new piece of sheet music or instrument or music lessons

  • A dozen or so eggs for dinner two nights (cheaper than a typical meal!)
  • Egg-nogg Ice Cream (or ingredients to DIY it yourself!)
That is it.  The rest (supplies for a cotton ball swan, your dancing feet, construction paper and crayons for the Apostle's Creed) you most likely have or have some variation of them to make it work in your home.


The full Apostle's Creed is HERE
The full text to The Twelve Days of Christmas is HERE
The legend of the 12 Days is HERE
12 Days of Christmas Kid's Books are a dime a dozen, so I love finding the really beautiful ones.
THIS ONE is really pretty, THIS ONE is great with the backstory and EVEN THIS ONE (for grownups!) look fun!

A few more fun "12 days" things I found online (all Amazon affiliate links and A Nest for All Seasons gets a small amount when you purchase)

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Christi said…
Amy, I've never heard this but absolutely love it! Thanks for sharing!
Amy Renea said…
I hadn't heard until reading the book -- I love the idea!! :)