After a long Advent full of anticipation and preparation, our family is so ready for Christmas come December 25th! In trying to make our home and domestic church mirror our actual church, we celebrate the Christmas season with full force, trying to make each day special.
I find it helpful to map out Christmas thru Epiphany in advance, so we know that every day will be observed and special. I like to have a mix of a few big ticket activities interspersed with really simple, low-key ones. Of course one cannot plan for everything – there might be illness, weather, or other factors that move around our Christmas plans, but it helps to me to lay it all out to at least have a general framework.
Here are my suggestions for making your own 12 Days of Christmas plan, and my own will be at the bottom.
Make a List
Start by making a list of everything Christmas-y that your family wants to do.
It is hard when our modern culture has abandoned the Church and her seasons, meaning most Christmas activities actually happened during Advent. With some digging, however, you can usually find some local Christmas events going on until New Years.
Here are Christmas activities in your area to research that may still be happening during Christmas
- Living Nativity Scenes
- Christmas tree displays
- Gingerbread house displays
- Christmas concerts
- Christmas plays
- Christmas light displays at private homes or downtown (Often times on Facebook or local news websites you can find a list of the house addresses with huge displays. They usually go through New Years)
- The Nutcracker ballet
- Zoo Lights displays
- Christmas stores (Touristy cities often times have one year round!)
Here are Christmas activities you can do at home or with friends
- Go to Mass during the 12 Days
- Sing Christmas carols
- Have children help you make a nativity play just for the family to enjoy
- Decorate Christmas cookies and/or gingerbread houses (I recommend baking your cookies in advance and freezing so you can pull out just what you want and decorate. It is lovely already having the mess and dishes from baking taken care of and just enjoying the fun part!)
- Read Christmas books
- Watch or read Christmas films or plays
- Save some small gifts or new Christmas books to be unwrapped throughout the 12 Days
- Stream a live performance of the Nutcracker
- Color Christmas coloring pages
- Go ice skating or sledding
- Host a Christmas party (You can do an afternoon with just cookies, or something simple like a baked potato bar to make work minimal)
- Sign up for Epiphany blessings from your parish priest
- Purchase real beeswax candles to be blessed on Candlemas
- Have your husband bless your property on Epiphany Eve while family processes singing hymns (Details of the lovely little tradition are in this book here)
- Bake a kings cake on Epiphany (You can find traditional plastic baby Jesus figurines here, and I purchased a ceramic one to avoid the plastic here)
Plug It All In
Once you know everything that is happening in your area and what you would like to do at home or out, plug it all in to your calendar. We like to alternate bigger activities like going to a huge light display or a living nativity scene, with something simple like having homemade hot chocolate after dinner and reading a new Christmas book.
Our Tentative 2021 Christmas Plan
December 25th – Midnight Mass and enthrone Baby Jesus in our creche when we get home. Presents after wake up, heat make-ahead breakfast, color Christmas coloring pages, Skype with family, make dinner in the afternoon, birthday cake for Jesus, pajama drive to see Christmas lights at dark.
December 26th – Mass, Living Nativity, sing Christmas carols
December 27th – Mass, Christmas coloring pages, decorate Christmas cookies
December 28th – Feast of the Holy Innocents – Mass, Read “The Spider Who Saved Christmas” and add our spider ornaments and tinsel to the tree
December 29th – Mass, homemade hot chocolate and books by the Christmas tree, unwrap new book
December 30th – Mass, Festival of Trees, more Christmas cookies
December 31st – Mass, pick out new ornament at Christmas store, drive through Christmas light display at local park
January 1st – Feast of the Circumcision – Mass, ice skating or sledding, unwrap gifts with family in town
January 2nd – Mass, unwrap new book, Christmas carols
January 3rd – Mass, sledding and homemade hot chocolate and cookies afterwards
January 4th – Mass, watch The Nutcracker
January 5th – Epiphany Eve – Mass, bless the home and candlelit procession, bake tomorrow’s King’s Cake
January 6th – Epiphany – Mass, open stockings, simple Epiphany party with friends
Societally, Christmas is “over” on December 26th.
You may find a little merriment here and there in the world until New Years, but then most are done with the celebration, and ready to chuck their trees to the curb.
December 25th is just the beginning.
In the words of Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, we celebrate “high octane” through Epiphany, and then “low octane” through Candlemas, the end of the whole 40 day Christmas season from Jesus’s birth to His presentation in the temple. So, after Epiphany all of the gifts have been opened and the big events have been attended, but we still leave out our decorations, listen to Christmas music, color Christmas pages, and read Christmas books until the very end.
Most of the world enjoyed their celebrations in Advent, and thus are finished with Christmas once it starts, left with an empty, bitter late December and January. There is such a dazzling beauty in living in tune with Holy Mother Church and actual liturgical Christmas season, basking in its glow during the darkest, coldest part of the year.
I hope this post helps you set up an intentional framework for your own Christmas celebrations, and that they are merry indeed!