Sunday, December 25, 2016

Twelve Beers of Christmas: An Introduction

"On the first day of Christmas, my BeerPal gave to me..."

I was overjoyed with the gift of beer I received for Christmas. Not just because I like beer, which I do (I really do), but also because of the clever manner in which the giver prepared the gift. So grateful am I, that I have decided to share the beers--and promote the idea of the "Twelve Beers of Christmas"--with readers of PhilosFX. This is a perfect gift for the beer lover on your list!

First, I feel the need to set the record straight. Many people apparently believe that the Twelve Days of Christmas either culminate or begin on Christmas Day, Not so! Neither is true. There may be no wrong way to give someone beer, but to do this "Beers of Christmas" correctly, one must first understand the difference between Advent, Christmas Day, and the Christmas Season. Only then can we properly appreciate the Twelve Beers of  Christmas.

A brief liturgical review:
  • Advent is a period of solemn preparation approximately 3 to 4 weeks before the Nativity itself on Christmas Day. Advent begins on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and ends at midnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas. 
    • The number of days in Advent ranges from 22 days up to 28 days. 
    • Adult Advent Calendars featuring a case of beer is another fun idea, but there are only exactly 24 days in Advent every 7th year. 
    • Anyway, this post is about the Twelve Beers of Christmas, which is completely different from Advent.
  • Christmas Day begins at midnight on December 25th and ends and midnight on December 26th. Christmas is a separate day, distinct from both preceding season of Advent and the 2 to 3 week period following the Nativity. 
  • The so-called Christmas Season begins the day after Christmas and concludes on the first Sunday after Epiphany. The Twelve Days of Christmas are the first 12 days of the Christmas Season, Dec 26 through Jan 6.
  • Included in the Christmas Season are a couple of other important days which offer possible tie-ins for creative gift selection:  
    • Boxing Day (Dec 26) began in England in the 1830s as a day when people would give Christmas gift boxes to their tradesmen. This usually happened on the day after Christmas. These days, Boxing Day is celebrated as a bank holiday in countries around the world once part of the British realm.
    • St. Stephen was the first martyr of the Catholic church, stoned to death for his faith. His feast day (Dec 26) traditionally features people dressed in straw trying to capture a wren. Tradition holds that a wren gave away Stephen's hiding place under a pile of straw. 
    • Apparently, December 30 is a great day to have been born. Consider LeBron James, Tiger Woods, and yours truly.
    • New Years Eve (Dec 31) is a party looking for a bottle.
    • New Years Day (Jan 1) is a hangover looking for a little hair of the dog.
    • There are usually some football games.
    • Of course, the tradition of Epiphany (Jan 6) dates back a bit further in time than Boxing Day or even St. Stephen's Day. Epiphany means the manifestation of the supernatural, and January 6th is the day Christians have long celebrated the arrival of the Three Kings to the manger in Bethlehem where newborn baby Jesus lay.
  • In conclusion, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the first 12 days of the Christmas Season, beginning on December 26th, aka the first day after Christmas. Count forward and you'll confirm for yourself that the twelfth and final "day" of Christmas is January 6th, aka Epiphany. 

To give the Twelve Beers of Christmas properly, start with the first beer on Dec 26!

The point of this little lesson in liturgical history is simple: if you want to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, start on Dec 26th. Whether you celebrate with gifts of frankincense, myrrh, partridges, pear trees, or--my personal favorite--beer--remember:
  • Do not start on December 1st. If you are going for a modified Advent calendar by using a case ending on Dec 24, that is perfectly cool but don't confuse that Advent action with The 12 Days of Christmas.  
  • Do not start on Dec 6th. Sure, that's the feast day of good ol' St. Nicholas, and yes, that is the perfect day to put up your Christmas tree and decorations. However, if you start the 12 Beers of Christmas, then your 12th day is a full week before Christmas Eve. 
  • Do not start on the 14th. I get why a lot of people do, because then the 12th day lands on Christmas, but then you just look like no one ever took the time to lovingly explain the whole liturgical history to you.  
  • Don't start on the blessed day of the Nativity, either. Keep that sacred. The wise men started the day after Jesus' birth and so can you.
  • Start on December 26th! Open your first beer of Christmas on the first day of Christmas Yes, and run the party right up to Epiphany like the beer-loving Royalty you were born to be!  

Has all of this studying made you thirsty? Me, too! Check back tomorrow night and find out about the very first of the beer I opened. Check back daily to see all the beers of Christmas I enjoyed over twelve glorious and delightful days!

"On the first day of Christmas, my BeerPal gave to me..."

I can hardly wait to find out!

Post Script: Advent varies in duration from 22 to 28 days. The Christmas Season varies in duration from 14 to 20 days. When Advent is longer, the Christmas Season is shorter. Advent, Christmas, and the Christmas Season all together encompass 43 days.

Post Post Script: Lent is also 43 days long, but you already knew that, right?

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