This post originally appeared on Philstar.com’s unBLOGGED section two years ago. A good number of my old posts there seem to have broken links (readers end up in “dead spots” whenever you click on the links) — this happened when the site underwent some changes, so I thought I’d republish a few of my favorite here, especially those that still seem relevant. 🙂
Today, December 27, is actually the third day of Christmas. A lot of people may be unaware, or may have forgotten, that we Catholics (I’m not so sure about our other Christian brothers and sisters) actually celebrate Christmas for 12 days, instead of just one (i.e. December 25). Catholic Culture explains it this way:
“The Twelve Days of Christmas are the days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 6th). On the updated calendar — since Epiphany is celebrated on a Sunday — these days may be more or less. We have 16 days… this (liturgical) year because the Christmas season extends until the feast of the Baptism of Christ and we have decided to include them all. (Note: It’s 19 days this year, 2013.)
The origin of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures. In the Western church, Epiphany is traditionally celebrated as the time the three Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus. In some cultures Epiphany is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings. Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, Epiphany is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.”
(If you want to know how you can celebrate each of the 19 days [well, on hindsight, there are actually only 16 days left, excluding today], click on the numbers found on the Christmas tree in this link.)
Anyway, while researching about the 12 Days of Christmas for our homeschool projects this Christmas season, I came across these two sites (www.bible.org and www.12waysofchristmas.blogspot.com) and was so inspired by them that I thought I’d try writing my own version of “The 12 Ways of Christmas.” Here goes:
- Reflect on God’s goodness. No matter how bad this year may have been for you, remember, it could have been much worse. Take the time to take stock of all the good things that have come your way — and for the people and things we are blessed with everyday but often take for granted — like our parents, siblings, spouses, children, jobs, homes, food on our tables, clean drinking water, complete and fully-functioning body parts, etc. Most of all, reflect on the wondrous miracle of the Baby born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago — because of God’s great love for you and me!
- List down the names of people you’re grateful for. Follow up your time of reflection with time to write down the names of people you’d like to thank for influencing you in a positive way. You could even go as far back as your childhood days, listing your best friend in grade school, or that teacher who’d always encourage you. After making your list, try to see if you can write “thank you notes” (or e-mails or Facebook messages or tweets) to the people on your list. When you’re focused on having an “attitude of gratitude” it will be harder for life to “bring you down.”
- Write love letters. By love letters, I don’t mean letters only for your spouse or boyfriend, but for all the people you love. These could include your kids, parents, siblings, good friends, etc. Christmas is a wonderful time to tell the people we love that we love them (though we should actually do this every day, as often as we can!)
- Establish a prayer routine. This may sound “corny” to some people, but I’ve realized that a lot of times “corny” can actually be “cool!” I am of the belief that “prayer is power” (here’s one of the reasons why), and Christmas is a great time to establish (or, in my case, re-establish) one’s prayer routine. You could decide to spend about 10 minutes in prayer when you wake up, another five minutes during your lunch break, and another 10 minutes before you go to bed. What’s important is your commitment and consistency in “connecting” to the Source of everything — the Reason for Christmas — Jesus Himself. (Don’t forget to include some Bible reading in your prayer routine!)
- Take stock of your finances (and change your financial mindset, if needed). This is something a lot of people don’t do (I used to be one of those people!). However, practically speaking, money — in a way — does make the world go round! Money in itself is actually not evil – it is the love of money that is! This Christmas season, set aside some time to see how your finances are going, and change your financial mindset if you need to. This means investing time and effort in one’s financial education. Attend free financial lectures; discover the powerful principles and abundant blessings oftithing; and start building your family’s financial foundation.
- Clean out your closets. This is something we should do on a regular basis, as there will always be people in need of warm clothing, beddings, blankets, and other “extras” that we may have hidden in our closets. Also, de-cluttering helps one realize what is “essential” in life, and makes for a tidier, neater home.
- Donate to a good cause. This is in connection to no. 6. I believe that “no one is too poor that he cannot give.” Right now of course, those in urgent need are the victims of Typhoon Sendong. Aside from them, there are many other people who can benefit from your pre-loved items; donations of cash or goods; or even donations of your time and talent. Click here for a list of some organizations that could use your help. You may also want to add a twist to the usual way you donate to charity: by holding a party at an orphanage or other similar place. (You can refer to my article here for some ideas). (This was in 2011; right now, the Yolanda victims are the ones in most need.)
- Make plans for the future. This time of the year gives us a good opportunity to chart out our future plans — as individuals and as a family. Spouses should set aside time to discuss the direction they wish to take – as separate persons; as life partners; as parents (if they have kids); and as a whole family unit. Make short-term and long-term goals. If your kids are old enough, have them join in the “planning session.” After making all your plans, offer them up in prayer — for God to bless them and guide you in implementing them.
- Decide to change and “be the change.” This could be as simple as deciding to implement the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) in your home; being nicer to your colleagues at work; following that weight loss program; exercising more; or making more time to be together as a family. It could also involve making a difference in the lives of other people.
- Establish “sacred routines” with your children. Our children are God’s gifts to us, and for each of them, especially the younger ones, love is spelled T-I-M-E. This Christmas season, decide on a special time of the day that you can devote to your kids — without the TV, video or computer games, and other distractions. Read books, play silly games, sing funny songs — the bottom line? Make time for your kids NOW, before they DON’T have (or, heaven forbid, DON’T WANT TO have) time for us. (Time flies so quickly, and our kids will be all grown-up before we know it!)
- Vow to leave each place a little brighter, each person a little happier. Try to let the Spirit of Christmas be “imbibed” in your whole being — such that each person you encounter is a little happier because of having been with you. Smile at the people you meet on the street; say “thank you” to the people who help you out at the office; reach out to those in need of help. Practice “random acts of kindness,” and you’ll be surprised at how life (and God) will “pay those acts forward.”
- Invest in eternity. Face it, dear readers, whether you like it or not, whether you believe me or not, we are NOT made for this world. Our life here is but temporary. We are made for something much, much greater than this world. There is much, much more to this life than we can see. Invest in the eternal, dear friends, and not in what can be taken away in the blink of an eye! (As our poor countrymen affected by Sendong (Yolanda for this year) can attest to — the difference between life and death can be mere minutes!) Invest your time, talent and treasure in the things that truly matter — not in what is material!
Here’s to a meaningful 12 (well, 19) days of Christmas for us all! Also, may you all have a peaceful, prosperous New Year ahead!
P.S. Do you really need those fireworks to celebrate the New Year? Why not donate the amount you’d be spending to the Yolanda victims? You’d be lighting up people’s lives instead! Now THAT would make for a truly happy New Year for all!