Extending the Celebration

It depresses me to hear all the people on FB racing to take down their Christmas trees & décor. It breaks my heart to hear people ending the celebration the day after it actually just began. I understand needing to get rid of a dead fire hazard, but since we travel, we have to have a fake tree, & it's not going anywhere anytime soon! We might even make it to Candlemas!!! (See below ;-))

I *love* celebrating life - any excuse to make a day "special". We had a great lady come speak to our MOPS group last year about this, and another sweet friend just turned me on to Celebrations & Traditions by Jack & Kathy Stockman. I have certainly gleaned some inspiration!

From a Celebrations & Traditions newsletter:

"Advent was a time to prepare for Christmas. Christmas Day was a special time for celebrating the birth of the Christ Child. The days between December 26th and January 5th, known as the Twelve Days of Christmas, Christmastide, or Yuletide, are a great time to savor Christ and his gifts. In this newsletter, we'll provide some historical background information about this period, then some practical ideas for observance.

January 6th is best known in the U.S. as Epiphany. In other cultures, it is also known as Three Kings Day or Little Christmas. The word Epiphany means to be made manifest. The day commemorates the visit of the Wise Men who revealed Jesus to the world as Lord & King when they brought their gifts to the Christ child. During some periods of church history and in different cultures, people have made January 6th the primary day for Christmas gift-giving and celebration. For example, historians have preserved Martha Washington's recipe for a huge Twelfth Night (January 5th, Epiphany Eve) cake that included 40 eggs, four pounds of sugar, and five pounds of dried fruits. In Bulgaria, young men dive into icy lakes to be the first to reach a wooden cross thrown by a priest. (Tradition decrees that the winner will enjoy a year of good health.)

We have some much simpler and warmer suggestions to offer, but before we do, for those of you who really want to extend your observance of Christmas (or put off taking down your decorations for as long as possible), we recommend that you consider the custom of some Christian cultures in Latin America and Europe by ending your observance on Candlemas, which is February 2nd. That day commemorates the time when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, traditionally done forty days after a birth. It was then that Simeon and Anna recognized the Messiah and Simeon prophesied the redemption of the world. So... If friends are laughing because you still have your Christmas tree up in late January, just inform them that you observe Candlemas!

Whether you celebrate twelve days of Christmas or forty days, we believe that the time after Christmas is valuable for reflecting on the gift of Christ and spending time with the people God has put in your life. We set aside lots of time after December 25th to spend with friends and family. We love to share the beauty of the Christmas story, sights, sounds, and scents when everyone is more rested and relaxed.

Here are some ideas:

Give a special gift meant to be redeemed during this time. Our most traditional gift is a new game for our family that we play during this season. Craft or building kits, jigsaw puzzles, or read-aloud books are also fun. You might give a gift of a special dinner and evening home alone for a spouse, an afternoon of closet-cleaning for a sister, or an invitation to tea for a mom.

Plan a family project such as building a bird feeder to last through Epiphany or Candlemas. Have a small celebration to mark completion of the project.

Make ornaments, gift tags, or decorations to pack away with the Christmas things for next year.

Give small gifts, one a day, throughout the twelve days of Christmas. The gifts don't need to be material: let family members choose their favorite meal or dessert, pick a game to play or activity to do, have a holiday from a chore, go on an outing, or have a special privilege.

If you haven't been reading a Christmas card every day at dinner, start now. Read the newsletters to the family, look at pictures, and talk to the children about the senders they may not know or remember. Pray for the person(s) and then call them or send them an e-mail to let them know you're thinking of them.

Write Thank You notes for gifts received. Help children write their own. Make it a fun project by supplying stickers, stamps, etc. to decorate the notes, as well as your family's favorites snacks to keep you all energized.

Have a King's party on Epiphany. Follow the example of the Three Kings by giving gifts - they might be ornaments like a star, crown, or wise men. Bake a traditional King's cake. Read an Epiphany-related book; two of our favorites are The Other Wise Man and Baboushka. (See our bibliography on the bottom of this page for more information.)

Have a tree-untrimming party. Make it an annual tradition. Have a sharing time to reflect over the holiday experience, have a special devotional, etc.

After you take down your tree, cut off two lengths of the trunk, one longer than the other, and remove all the branches from them. Cut a notch in the underside of the short piece so that it will fit over the top of the other one to make the shape of a cross to use at Easter. Drill holes in the top to fit seven candles - one for each week of Lent and Easter Sunday or one for each day of Holy Week. We suggest purple (which represents repentance) for Lent and pink or white (representing joy or light). The cross can be decorated with small bits of ivy and lilies. If you don't have a live tree, use one discarded by a friend or neighbor. Using the Christmas tree to make the cross symbolizes the connection between Christmas and Easter.

Have a time of evaluation - personal, as well as with your spouse, housemate, family, extended family, church, etc., regarding your Christmas observance. Consider any activities you did or changes you made in your personal or family life during Advent which you would like to continue throughout the year. Write down ideas for next Christmas and put the list away with your decorations.

We hope you all enjoy a blessed Christmastide and a New Year filled with love, joy, peace, and hope."


  1. that is neat and it helps me understand more of the european tradition. that being said, here the tree is usually put up their tree christmas eve or closer to christmas. we put it up early to have something for focusing our attention to what is coming.

    and we get ours down before the new year and I have my own reasons for that. I love the thought of starting the new year fresh and clean with the old gone. What an example that Christ gave us. He continually washes and cleans us and forgets our past. So I do already have mine down, but there is a reason. We are washed clean and start a new year free from the past mistakes and such! :)

    so I have found something we differ on. ;)

  2. Thanks for sharing these ideas! I like the King's Party as well as the tree-untrimming party!

  3. YES! :) we've done a 12th night party in years past. we also celebrate epiphany and have done a kings cake in our little family celebrations.
    enjoy the rest of the christmas season!
    amy - i see your points in new year renewal. the liturgical year gives us that in the easter season. the old is "dead" on the cross and with the resurrection, our new life (clean slate!) begins.


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