Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Twelve Days run counter to the "holiday" season

By Steve Valenzuela
Director, Small Faith Communities


Everyone has holiday traditions, even if your “tradition” is to forget about them and act as if they are just another day. Over the past couple of months it has been hard to escape the “Holiday” reality as retailers, media outlets and everyone in between has been getting ready for the “holidays.” And the last few weeks (four to be exact), ra­dio programs changed. Red and green or blue and white decorations have been ev­erywhere. Every night one could watch a holiday themed movie, special or regular television program.

On the evening of the 25th and definitely on the 26th, much of our media oriented world will make the transition back to non­holiday time.

And in a kind of gentle yet profound prophetic gesture, we in the Church have maintained a quiet stand against all the hoopla. Our churches (and some of our homes) have been simply adorned in purple with a large wreath and 4 tall candles lit in weekly progression until this weekend. We had been observing Advent. For us Catho­lics, beginning on December 25, now is the time of the great twelve days (though this year it is 14) of celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ!

In addition to shopping (for some de­spite it), many of us have been preparing for this time with wonderful ethnic foods to share this night and beyond, whether it’s steaming tamales, baking cabbage rolls or pans of lasagna, decorating cookies or creamy fudge or making fruit­filled pane­tone or cake, many of our cupboards and countertops are filled with sweet and sa­vory treats for feasting. There is no fasting with the birth of Savior, all will be fed, all will have their fill.

For many years now, over 25 since I have lived here in the IE, I have made a concert­ed effort to celebrate the 12 days. I try to do some kind of event each day whether it is a visit with out­of­town friends, a movie with colleagues, whatever. One event I do annually is a party on December 26th with a group of church friends in Riverside and Orange County. That event, one of my fa­vorites of the whole season, includes all the usual elements of a traditional Christmas celebration with gift giving, eating and drinking but ends around 10 p.m. (it use to be later but as most of us are beyond 50 now 10 seems reasonable!) with a wonder­ful tradition of faith sharing and prayer. Af­ter each person takes a turn to reveal what has been God’s activity in their lives this past year (some see each other only at this annual event), the group concludes singing the same folk hymn from our college days of fellowship meetings, bible studies and faith community houses.
These things I have spoken unto you
That in me you might have peace.
In the world, you shall have tribulation
But be of good cheer, be of good cheer
For I have overcome the World.
May your celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus bring you peace and good cheer for the 12 days and throughout the New Year!

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