…a Christmas tradition that lasts longer than just 1 day
… A tradition in the Legend household I think you’ll love…
Today I’m going to share a family Christmas tradition that we’ve carried close to our hearts all these years, and you’re more than welcome to celebrate with us in this fashion. All the while, lengthening your celebration period and keeping the spirit of Christmas in your heart longer than just 1 day out of the year.
When I was growing up, we celebrated what is called the twelve days of Christmas. We received a gift each day – oh, don’t get me wrong – Santa came bearing gifts on Christmas morning – but we weren’t allowed to open all of our gifts all in one morning. We got to choose one package to open, and each day from there, we got a gift every day.
Growing up, it was a hard thing that I didn’t appreciate until I was older.
Growing up with this Christmas tradition in our house was sometimes hard. All my friends got all their gifts and knew what they got by the time school was back in session. But in our house, we had to wait. There was anticipation for 12 days straight. And sometimes, school was back in session before our gift stash had been opened up completely.
But at the same time, while my friends got 3 gifts from Santa, in my house, we had 12. And one from my parents on Christmas Eve. So we had THAT going, which was cool. Even if it was just a new package of super awesome white socks. It was still cool to get new things. Many of my friends didn’t understand our Christmas tradition, but that’s ok.
Our house was different with this Christmas tradition… but for a good reason.
Our house was just… different. And it wasn’t until I had my own kids that I understood why this was a tradition that was held sacred in my family.
But different is okay. I look back now and understand what my parents were trying to accomplish. Gratitude for a gift. Each and every single one. Attention to that toy for a solid day. We had something to play with that was different. The anticipation building. Excitement. Family togetherness every night. Festivities and special moments. That lasted well beyond Christmas Day and extended to around January 5.
Our first kid’s Christmas was depressing for me.
Our first child’s Christmas, all the gifts were opened on the first day. And by the end of the day, it felt like Christmas was over. I was depressed. Sad. I didn’t understand the overwhelm we had created on our kid – getting all those toys from everyone including Santa all in one day. He didn’t know which toy to play with and there was toy chaos everywhere. That was the last year we “did Christmas” like my husband’s family did – all the gifts, opened all in one day. I felt… empty.
The first year we agreed to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas together, my husband fell in love with the concept. The look on our kids’ faces when they had something to look forward to each and every day was intoxicating and exciting for us, as much so for the boys.
He was sold. This was a tradition worth carrying out year after year. Less overwhelm, less chaos, and more attention to family time each night of the 12 days of Christmas. Even if it meant more wrapping, more gifts (and a bit more expense – but it was worth it).
This is a celebration that has been lost somewhat in the United States. A few of us choose to celebrate the 12 days, with a gift symbolizing each month of the year, with what we wish the receiver to have each month. Learning time, playtime, discovery, creativity, and adventure are our common themes for each month.
Marketers are completely confused about when the 12 days of Christmas is celebrated. It’s not before Christmas. It starts on the day of.
So when marketers start “celebrating” the 12 days of Christmas on December 1, that tactic is completely lost on me, because that’s not actually when the twelve days of Christmas is. It actually runs from December 25 until January 5, or, Epiphany.
And now that you know WHEN the 12 days of Christmas actually is to be celebrated, you can inform those marketing it long before Christmas and educate! Maybe even bring this long-lost tradition into your home.
Christmas was intended to be celebrated over a period of time, not just one day. In England in the Middle Ages, this period was one of continuous feasting and merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season on 6 January.
In Tudor England, Twelfth Night itself was forever solidified in popular culture when William Shakespeare used it as the setting for one of his most famous stage plays, titled Twelfth Night. Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels.
How does our Christmas tradition work?
So in our house, Santa numbers each gift, 1, 2, 3, and so on. Other houses may do it differently and not number the gifts. But Joe and I (ahem, I mean Santa) choose to number each one and each month has a corresponding theme. We really try to put some effort and mindfulness on the wishes we have for our kids. And we pray on those wishes, too, as we put things under the tree on Christmas Eve, when the kids have exhausted themselves on excitement and Christmas Eve feasting and finally fall fast asleep. On my bed, of all places.
My son, Joey, who right now is 3, is the one that is having the hardest time with anticipation this year. ‘Open presents, mommy?’ every hour. Each and every single hour. He even tries to put out the stockings again, thinking that Santa comes to our house every single night. It’s adorable. He’ll catch on eventually.
You can put your own spin on things. Do things differently, especially if you’re on a budget but want to keep Christmas in your hearts longer with this amazing Christmas tradition. This has brought a whole lot more love, light, and laughter in our lives. Take your fun level up a notch next year. Or maybe, if you’re able, start today.
When your kids are younger, it’s a bit harder to keep up with this tradition. I recommend having a few extra packages of socks or essentials, even treats handy so they can go through the process of opening up a surprise. One year, Minecraft is the bomb. The next year, it’s Avengers and role playing. The following year, it’s the Minecraft Legos. Kids are wonderful, aren’t they!?
Finally, It’s always interesting to me to see what our kids get really into each Christmas. As they grow, their interests change, and it’s fun to see their personalities evolve into what I hope they’re becoming: beautiful humans. As I watch them open up gifts, I can only hope our tradition is one they, too, will pass down to their kids.
Also published on Medium.