Thursday, January 3, 2019

On the Tenth Day of Christmas . . .

...we lose our way even further.

Oh, dear. It seems, with today's feast, we have yet another moveable designation. Resources explaining the traditions behind the concept of the Twelve Days of Christmas assert that today is celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. However, the naming of Jesus, if we follow the Jewish tradition—not to mention the Bible explanation—occurred "on the eighth day." That would bring us to January 1, not January 3 (if, indeed, Christ were actually born on December 25).

As it stands now, there already is a Feast of the Circumcision of Christ—technically, circumcision being when a Jewish son was given his name—and that feast day is held on January 1, the Eighth Day of Christmas. But that is already designated as a feast day to Mary. So what has become of the Feast of the Holy Name?

Well, it seems the church calendar has undergone several variations over the years. This feast day is no exception. The Feast of the Holy Name has been celebrated in the Catholic church since at least the late 1400s. Just when it has been celebrated has been a less constant fixture. The day has been celebrated, for instance, on January 14 (by Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustinians), or on January 15 (by Dominicans), though the Jesuits have always fixed the date as January 3.

Different countries have celebrated this feast on different days, as well, over the centuries. And over time, the different popes have revised the church calendar, too.

Which all makes me wonder about this tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Like the chicken and egg conundrum, I begin to wonder whether we had the saints' days first, or the twelve days—aching to be filled by churchified substitutions for former pagan rites. Perhaps a lack of focus on the purpose for each of these twelve days lies behind the reason why people don't really celebrate the entire season. Or is it that catchy Christmas tune that swayed me into thinking there really were twelve different days, each with its own distinct designation?

After all, I don't really have any family traditions which help me realize this is how my Polish (or Scottish, or Alsatian) forebears celebrated the Tenth Day of Christmas. Perhaps it was just that silly leap of logic: if there really are Twelve Days of Christmas, one of them must be the Tenth Day of Christmas. Right?

Despite this little glitch in my holiday fervor, we do need to persevere through the entire sequence. We still have two more days to celebrate. And around here in my adopted home state, that old holiday tradition demands the Christmas decorations stay put until the proper close of the holiday season.

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