On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … six geese a-laying.
For much of our world, Christmas has come and gone. Christmas trees are on the curb, and decorations are packed away for another year. But in our Catholic Church, we are still in the midst of the Christmas season, as conveyed by the popular carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. (The first day of Christmas is Dec. 25, and the twelfth day is Dec. 5, the eve of Epiphany.)
Legend says that the song was written to teach catechism to children at a time when Roman Catholic instruction was prohibited in England. Each gift from our “true love” symbolizes an element of our faith. Today’s six geese a-laying represent the six days of creation.
The song has never been a favorite of mine, unless we’re talking about the Muppets’ version with Miss Piggy’s “ba-dum-bum-bum” sprinkled throughout. But I have grown to appreciate the symbolism of the lyrics as a reminder to not rush the Christmas season.
The Advent season is richly emphasized as a preparation period for our hearts and homes for the birth of Jesus. We pour over Scripture readings and daily reflections. We light candles and hang ornaments on a Jesse Tree. We attend Confession. We clean and decorate, cook and bake, shop and gift wrap.
All of Advent is active and focused and leads us to packed churches on Christmas Day, followed by busy family gatherings with sugared-up children opening gifts in a frenzy. And it is good, festive and fun! But with our active Advent, hustle and bustle, we can feel exhausted by Christmas Day. We can feel ready to join the world in packing up Christmas for another year … And the season has only just begun.
So how can we not feel ready to get back to normal? How can we relax into this Christmas season, appreciating the twinkling lights, the manger scene and the mess that tends to linger with the extra cookies, new gifts, and additional decorations around the house?
After the active anticipation and joyful preparation for the birth of our newborn King, it is only fitting to dwell with Jesus, Mary and Joseph for as long as possible. We have spent so much time getting ready, why not linger a bit now that Who we’ve been preparing for has arrived?
So, relax! Don’t worry about the mess of giftwrap and boxes, the extra calories, the pine needles falling on the floor. Turn on the Christmas lights, play a favorite Christmas CD, wrap up in a warm blanket, read the daily readings, pray in thanksgiving for the amazing miracle that has just taken place. It is (still) Christmas! Let us rejoice and savor the season.