Saturday, January 3, 2015

The First Day of Christmas?

We all know the song. Most of us have sung it many times and heard it sung at Christmas many times more. 



On the first day of Christmas
my true love gave to me:
a Partridge in a Pear Tree


But, have you ever really thought about the implications of this classic Christmas song? In the spirit of joy and in the quest for understanding, let us consider the following questions:
  • What is the first day of Christmas? In other words, on what day did the original singer's first present of a partridge in a pear tree arrive? Twelve days before Christmas? Beginning on Christmas Day (but then ending before Epiphany)? Beginning on the first day after Christmas and culminating on Epiphany, the day the magi found Jesus? 
  • What do we mean by the Christmas Season? I see that phrase interpreted so many ways. Does it have any definitive, commonly understood meaning? Or is it just a broad, sweepingly indistinct term? Is there value in defining the season, or should we let it be open to interpretation? 
  • Thinking about the song and all the gifts on each of those days, how many presents arrive in all? Think about it for a second. Five golden rings on days 5 through 12 amounts to 40 rings!  
  • And speaking of gifts, is there any significance behind the seemingly random gift choices? I mean, if I wanted to demonstrate my true love in the same way, my lady would need a barn for all the cows, swans, geese, birds, hens, doves, and partridges. Not to mention a very large house and food budget for all the drummers, pipers, lords, ladies, and maids. Why not sweaters, pajamas, and music CDs? Oh, wait, the song was written before CDs, or cassettes, or albums, or...
The aim of this post is to provide some rational answers to these questions. That and to stretch the Christmas season out to its full extent. I want definitive answers, if possible, or at least answers that make sense to me. Inquiring minds want to know--and if knowing is not possible, pragmatic inquiring minds will take an answer that makes sense until a better one comes along.

Here we go!

December 26th, not the 14th and not the 25th, is the First Day of Christmas. If you are going to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas with, say, one new winter beer for twelve days in a row or a series of gifts for your true love, and if you want to follow the tradition, start on December 26th. How do I know this? Follow this logic trail: Advent culminates on Christmas Eve (more on that later). Advent is a time for preparation, not celebration. Christmas Day, when Jesus was born, is a holy day--a day of reverence and gratitude. Traditionally, the gift-giving and celebration commenced on the 26th with the first of twelve successive Days of Christmas. This party culminates on January 6th with the Feast of Epiphany. If you start the Twelve Days on the 25th, the Twelfth Night falls on January 5th. But January 6th must be included in the period of celebration, because that is the day that the magi found Jesus and gave him gifts. That the Twelve Days of Christmas is interpreted differently by many is due in part to the fact that so many time segments are contain in what we call the "Christmas Season." Which brings us to question number two.

Hmmmm....   I just decided to turn this post into a series of posts. That move limits the individual posts to a readable length while furthering the goal of stretching the Christmas Season--whatever that means--to its fullest extent.

We'll tackle the Christmas Season question in Part II of this series.

Stay tuned!