Many assume that the Twelve Days of Christmas are those leading up to December 25, but actually, Christmas Day itself ushers in these twelve days of celebration that end only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany. ‘Twelvetide’, as this period is sometimes called, has its origins in an older Christian tradition of twelve days of joyful, celebratory religious devotion following the birth of the Christ Child.
But often, the chaos and pressures we allow to invade what is supposed to be a season of peace exhaust us, and for most people to think of another 12 days of observation is a bit too much.
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, considered the Twelve Holy Nights between Christmas and Epiphany as the time when the Spirit of the individual and the Spiritual World are most connected, making it the perfect time for special attention to our inner path of personal development.
So we can use this time, a time of one year giving way to another, in a more quiet and reflective way. Lynn Jericho, believes what’s missing in Christmas is an opportunity to explore the ‘inner dimensions’ of the season, and so advocates making the old custom of the Twelve Days of Christmas into a new tradition in which she encourages us to mark each evening from December 25 through January 5 with a few minutes of reflection. The themes for each of these Holy Nights could help us restore the sacred dimension in our lives.
You can, of course, choose your own themes, list of words, questions and reflections. And journalling them is a good idea.
Perhaps for the first night, reflect on Generosity; think of three people who were generous in any way to you, and three more to whom you can reach out to with this quality. For the second night, look at Receptivity; during the past year, what gifts from the universe have you neglected to accept or acknowledge? On the third, Resilience; how have or haven’t you recovered your balance when something disturbed you? The next day, a quality we don’t pay much attention to much: Vulnerability; can you allow yourself to be vulnerable?
Look at Change for day five; what changes did you face this past year, what saw you through them, what qualities in yourself came up that you can celebrate? Then, Flexibility; how easy or hard has it been to go with the flow? Day seven, Radiance – look back at your darkest moments of the last year, and remember who or what lit the way for you. On the eighth day, recall Wonder; did you make time to be touched, awed, delighted? Can you make room for more in the year ahead?
For day nine, Wisdom; which person, young or old, embodied wise living for you this year? The next day you might look at Foolishness; we all have our foolish moments; have you laughed at yourself, forgiven yourself? Speaking of Forgiveness – on day eleven think of those you find it hard to forgive, and try to anyway. And on the twelfth night – reflect on Hope, and your hopes for the year ahead.
Another idea I heard about that I really like, and would like to introduce this year, is about making this period of A Time for Giving Thanks. Each night after Christmas, have each member share one thing they are thankful for. Then on cutout shapes of colored note-paper or left over wrapping paper, ribbon, and markers, you write the different things you are thankful for and hang them on your tree, setting the tone for your year ahead.
May your 12 Days of Christmas fill you from the inside out. I am most thankful to Marguerite Theopil, Ph.D., for sharing her wisdom and reflections.
Dr. Marguerite Theophil, Ph.D., lives in Mumbai, with her husband Homayun Taba, three old trees and many plants and birds. She loves with equal passion staying right there and working on her writing, as well as traveling the world, and manages to do both.
While previously working as an airline stewardess, she also worked on and received her Ph.D. in Philosophy, in the field of Sacred Architecture. Currently as co-director of ORIENTATIONS she works as an organizational consultant with businesses and educational institutions.
She is a story-lover, and conducts workshops on Storywork & Healing,and also works one-on-one with clients as a Personal growth Coach. She founded WEAVE: Woman Earth And Vital Encounter, a place to explore a lived spirituality, particularly within the multi-religious environment of India, and to study the influence of story, symbols, sacred space, myth, dream and image in our lives and writes about these when she can make the time.
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