Commentary: The true meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas

Boyd Cooper

Boyd Cooper

So what are the Twelve Days of Christmas really about? Is it only a song, or is it more? Perhaps, it’s as retailers and the corporate world would like us to believe, it’s simply the 12 days of shopping before Christmas?

Apparently many people feel the Christmas season is over the day after the present giving, and the food extravaganza; in actuality, The Twelve Days of Christmas starts on Christmas Day.

Christmas day marks the birth of Jesus, Son of God. What many folks don’t know, or perhaps forget, is the 12th day is when the Three Kings or Magi, visited Mary and the infant, and realized he was indeed, the Son of God. This event is called the Day of Epiphany, which falls on January 5th.

Somewhere along the line, many people around the world have lost track of the special meaning and importance of December 25th. The Christmas season now starts, on Thanksgiving Day, with Black Friday shopping marking the beginning of the buying madness that puts many families into debt for the entire upcoming year.

Stores are stocked to the rafters with meaningless gift options and generic merchandise, as early as October, while shoppers fight over the best deals. Things are bought in a frenzy simply because of the brand names and the discounted sale prices. Many of these well intentioned gifts end up being quickly returned, for store credit, just a few days after Christmas.

What happened to our culture that we now put “stuff” over enjoying the true meaning of the holiday? People seemed to be so obsessed with all the hoopla, they forget to enjoy the people around them, and why we are celebrating.

As a boy, raised in a Pennsylvania farming community, my parents would put up the tree while we kids were sleeping on Christmas Eve. We would awaken to an absolutely magical site! The tree adorned with simple ornaments, a second hand model train zipping around its base, and a few colorful packages just waiting for my siblings and I.

My parents were by no means wealthy. However, the gifts, were always thoughtful, meaningful, and greatly appreciated. All these years later, and in light of the fact, my parents are no longer around, I contemplate my awe and appreciation of their inspiring efforts. Their thoughtfulness and attention to the individual details brought an even deeper appreciation to my current holiday reflections.

The tree stayed up until Jan 5th, the evening of The Epiphany. Our family was not alone in this tradition. Of course this was in the 1950s, a much simpler time in many ways.

These days, it is a common occurrence to see discarded trees on the curb on December 26th. Shortly thereafter outside lights disappear, and a few days after Christmas, all is dark.

Personally, I have found those days after Christmas to be a time of peace, tranquility, and reflection. The hustle and bustle of the parties and excess are over, and one can simply enjoy the real beauty of this special time of year. The exterior Christmas lights still shine at my humble abode through the night of January 5th, giving a few more dark winter nights a warm colorful glow.

Rather than dismantle Christmas the day after, I can now contemplate the past year and the true meaning of the holiday. I now permit myself the time to be in the moment, while not being rushed to do something, buy something, or zoom off somewhere.

After years of being caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, I personally find new importance and relevance to slowing the pace and simply enjoying the moment. Rather than buying presents for others, I now focus on being present in the lives of the people I love and find important.

I now feel I am truly enjoying Christmas once again.

Merry Christmas.

Boyd Copper has lived in the Verde Valley since 1977. He is a resident of Bridgeport.

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