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On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Are you familiar with the old carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? If you’re like me, you learned the words as a school child without ever thinking about what it meant that there were twelve days of Christmas.

Traditionally and in many churches still today, the season of Christmas doesn’t begin on Black Friday or even on December 1. Christmas begins the evening of December 24 or the morning of December 25, when the preparation and waiting of Advent ends and Jesus is welcomed as newborn king. On December 26, when some are taking down their trees and decorations and “getting back to normal,” others are just getting started on their Christmas celebration.

In the past few years, our family has tried to live into the season of Christmastide, celebrating until Epiphany on January 6. It can feel countercultural to think of Christmas this way, but it allows us much more time to inhabit the joy of Jesus’ coming and to celebrate what God is doing in our midst.

Here are three simple ways to extend the Christmas celebration:

Spread out the gifts: Giving and receiving gifts over the twelve days of Christmas is not as overstimulating as opening them all at once, and it’s easier to appreciate and receive a gift with gratitude if it is received alone. This may not work depending on travel plans or family visitors, but it’s something to consider.

Save some of your special Christmas activities: Why not bake or write and send cards at the end of December or in early January? Because much of the activity has settled and past, these days after December 25 often have space in them to enjoy one another’s company and to enjoy Christmas activities at a slower pace. We always wait until after the 25th to see the local holiday lights, and it’s a tradition we’ve come to love.

Allow some drama in your nativity scene: In our nativity scenes, Jesus is born (and therefore put in the manger) on Christmas morning. But the magi are not there yet. They are traveling to get to the Christ child over the twelve days of Christmas, arriving on Epiphany to worship the newborn king. By setting up the figures a little at a time, we can tell the Christmas story in stages and enjoy the development.

Extending your celebration of Christmas over twelve days extends the joy into the slower days at the end of December. Why not spend those quieter days reflecting on the details of the Christmas story, receiving Jesus with gratitude into your hearts again, and enjoying time by a fire or by your tree, now that the hustle and bustle is past? Maybe you’d like to pick up a new tradition this year. It’s not too late—you have seven more days of Christmas to celebrate!

Photo Courtesy of

Anna Moseley Gissing

Anna Moseley Gissing is Associate Academic Editor of InterVarsity Press. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and her writing has been published in Let us Keep the Feast and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two kids, and she aspires to more reading, more writing, and more patience.

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