Creating the Twelve Days of Christmas

Creating the Twelve Days of Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

Creating the Twelve Days of Christmas

The greatest joy we can receive in life is giving— to bring into the life of someone else a little joy and happiness.

Elder L. Tom Perry

It’s difficult to keep Christmas special when it has become so commercial. When we were young, we never saw a hint of Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving. Years later, Christmas started making an appearance right after Halloween. Now we see signs of Christmas as early as Labor Day. So, in our young parenting years, we created the Twelve Days of Christmas to keep Christmas special the entire holiday season.

First of all, Christmas started for our four young sons the day school ended for the holiday. That evening they were allowed to open whatever gifts we might have received from friends and neighbors.

The next night, they were allowed to open any gifts that might have arrived from extended family.

The third night before Christmas, they were allowed to open games to play with each other during the holidays.

The fourth night before Christmas, they were allowed to open books to read and/or crafts to do during quiet times throughout the holiday.

Christmas Eve, they always opened new pajamas, often made by Grandma.

Christmas morning, they came downstairs to their unwrapped Christmas toys from Santa, two each, which forced us not to overdo. (Unwrapped because who ever saw Santa in a sleigh full of wrapped presents? Santa flies around in a sleigh full of toys!)

The day after Christmas is when the fun started. Each person chose a day between Christmas and the New Year to present his or her personal gifts to each family member in an individually unique way.

A tradition that allowed me to shop the after-Christmas sales I preferred. I always presented my gifts wrapped in blankets.

A tradition that allowed Peg more time to prepare her gifts, making Christmas less hectic for her. She always presented her gifts in beautiful Christmas gift wrap with all the trimmings.

A tradition that allowed our young sons’ homemade or less expensive gifts to shine on their own without competing with other store-bought gifts. One presented his gifts wrapped in newspaper. Another presented his gifts still in their store bags.

A tradition that allowed our sons to experience the true spirit of giving, because they received no gifts the day they presented their gifts. That alone is what made Christmas special for our family every year.

One Christmas one son discovered that his friend received only one gift for Christmas, which he opened on Christmas day. When the friend visited our house after Christmas and discovered mounds of still-unopened gifts, he was visibly confused, if not a bit envious. Noting his reaction, our son pulled one of his own gifts out from under the tree and handed it to his friend. It was a beautiful sweater our son had especially wanted for Christmas. When we asked later if we could replace it, he replied, “No.”

One year another son found a little red wagon similar to the one his grandfather had given him when he was a baby. He spent weeks restoring it, completing the labor of love just before Christmas. He had planned to keep it for himself. But when a neighborhood child admired it, he gave it to the child for Christmas.

Our sons had learned the true spirit of giving.

Our Twelve Days of Christmas usually filled the time between school ending and school resuming, which made the holiday all the more fun-filled.

Having grown up with those traditions, our sons knew nothing else. When they grew older and starting visiting friends in their homes on Christmas day, they were surprised to learn that their friends had opened all their gifts that day. “How dumb,” they said upon returning home, “what do they do the rest of the holiday?”

We have kept our Twelve Days of Christmas tradition alive even today with grown sons and daughters-in-law and grandbabies. Family members present their gifts on whatever day best works for them during the holiday. We allow the grandbabies to open one gift each time they visit during the holidays, which makes them want to visit every day, our favorite Christmas present from them!

Sherm and Peg Fugal

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