Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The 12 Days of Christmas and Epiphany

During the 12 days of Christmas, I employed Jessica's idea from Shower of Roses to review some of the basic Catholic lists with a few of my children.  After downloading the 12 days of Christmas lapbook from Homeschool Share and making the necessary modifications that Jessica suggested to make it Catholic, I decided to continue adapting it for our own needs.  I also loved her idea of a Twelfth Night Feast based on the song, so I attempted to recreate that for our family.  We had great fun!

I am sure many of you have heard of the Catholic meanings behind each of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  The history behind the song being used as a catechetical tool is based on the period of Catholic persecution in England from 1558-1829. During this time in history, it was against the law to be Catholic in England, and the punishment could be imprisonment or even death.  Therefore the Catholics created ways to pass their Faith to their children in secret.  One of these ways was to hide the tenets of the Faith within a song, creating a simple, but hidden way to remember these truths.  I know some people do not believe the hidden meanings are true, but I like the idea of the song being used as a catechesis tool; it makes historical sense to me.  I also think it is a fun way to teach my children truths of our beloved Faith.


When we began studying the song and its "hidden" meanings, I added additions for many of the days.  By adding other Catholic beliefs, I am not saying I disagree with the history of the song.  I just wanted to use this opportunity to ensure my children knew more of the basic Catholic beliefs.  The ideas in bold green are the ideas I added in addition to the original ideas from Homeschool Share.  The original ideas that need to be corrected for Catholic belief are underlined.  Overall I think the kids enjoyed this simple unit.

1st Day of Christmas--Jesus on the Cross

2nd Day of Christmas--Two parts of the Bible:  Old and New Testament; the two natures of Jesus:  Human and Divine

3rd Day of Christmas--Three theological virtues:  faith, hope, love; three gifts of the Magi; the Trinity

4th Day of Christmas--Four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; four cardinal virtues:  prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance

5th Day of Christmas--First five books of the Old Testament; ***Note***I changed the label on this from Torah to Pentateuch, which is what Catholics generally call these books***; five wounds of Christ

6th Day of Christmas--Six days of creation

7th Day of Christmas--Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; seven Sacraments; seven Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy

8th Day of Christmas--Eight Beatitudes

9th Day of Christmas--***I did not use the nine fruits of the Spirit here as Catholics recognize the nine fruits in the Bible and three additional ones, so I moved the fruits of the Holy Spirit to day twelve, but you could leave them here;*** nine choirs of Angels

10th Day of Christmas--Ten commandments

11th Day of Christmas--Eleven faithful apostles

12th Day of Christmas--Twelve points of belief in the Apostles Creed; twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit

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Twelfth Night Feast

Since we spent time throughout the 12 days of Christmas studying the song and its meanings, I decided a great way to wrap it all up would be as Jessica, from Shower of Roses, (she has so many great ideas!) suggested:  plan a Twelfth Night Feast, basing my foods on the song.  Let me tell you right now that was no easy task!  Thankfully I did get some ideas from Shower of Roses and Catholic Cuisine, which I will link to below, but my husband and I brainstormed other foods as well.  We had a great evening!
In retrospect, however, if I use the song as a food theme next year, I think I will try to match the food to the actual day of Christmas, rather than creating a meal out of them.  Our ideas for multiple days either included chicken, breads, or sweets.  It was difficult to create a balanced meal without repeating similar items.  In the end, however, we ate relatively healthy, saving a portion of the treats for the Epiphany.  I hope you enjoy our ideas, and if you have other suggestions for any of the 12 days, feel free to comment.  Below I will list all of our ideas for each day, but the first item listed is what we decided to incorporate.

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Partridge in the Pear Tree---*Lime jello with pear chunks*; Partridge in a Pear Tree Pie; Pears

Turtle Doves---*Turtle Dove Chocolates*; Turtle pie

French Hens---*Baked chicken breasts*

Colly (Calling) Birds---*Biscuits with Blackberry Jelly*; Black-eyed Peas (This was a difficult day to find foods for, but after realizing that Colly Birds are European Black Birds, I decided to use a "black" food.

Our apple swan
Golden Rings---*Onion rings*; Pineapple rings

Geese Laying---*Boiled eggs*; Deviled eggs; Eggnog

Swans Swimming---*Apple Swans*; Swan creme puffs

Maids Milking---*Milk*; Ice cream; Shakes

Ladies Dancing---*Healthy Tropical Spinach Salad with Chiquita Bananas without the salad dressing*; (I know this is a bit of a stretch, but Ladies Dancing was another difficult day.  We decided on this salad since Chiquita bananas have the sticker on them with the picture of the dancing lady.)  Gingerbread girls, decorated with fancy details,

Lords Leaping---*Gold-wrapped Rollos*, representing the Lords' crowns; (I know, again, a bit of a stretch, but it was another difficult one); Gingerbread men; Hoppin' John

Pipers Piping---*Pirouette wafers*

Drummers Drumming---*Drumstick ice cream cones*; Chicken Drumsticks; Rosemary breadsticks

I was also hoping to make the Twelfth Night Rum Cake since it looks so delicious.  However, I did not have the correct cake pan.  Hopefully next year, I can try it.  Overall we had a great evening!

Blessed Epiphany!

On the Feast of Epiphany, we attended Mass and once again did the chalk blessing for our home.  For this feast we also generally give our family three gifts in imitation of the three gifts of the Magi.  Generally the three gifts are religious based.  For example, one year I made each family member a kneeler pad for family prayer.  This year our gifts were holy cards, a new puzzle from the Vermont Company (they have great religious puzzles), and this wonderfully made Memory Saint card game, which is on sale right now for $2.95 from Fraternity Publishing.  

Before the children are allowed to open the gifts, however, they must present Baby Jesus with His gifts--again three gifts, representing gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Beginning with Christmas, we set out three small boxes under the Christmas tree. Each gift of the magi is represented by one of the boxes.  Throughout the 12 days of Christmas, we work to fill those boxes.  Each time someone does a kind deed that person writes it on a slip of paper and places it in the "gift of gold" box.  Each time someone says prayers in reparation for the sins committed against the Sacred Heart that person writes it on a slip of paper and places it in the "gift of frankincense box."  Finally each time someone performs a sacrifice, that person writes it on a slip of paper and places it in the "gift of myrrh" box.  We try to fill the gifts with as many kind deeds, prayers, and sacrifices as we can within those twelve days.  On Epiphany three children place the gifts, hopefully quite filled by now, beneath our statue of Baby Jesus.  

I really love this tradition.  It helps us remain focused on the spiritual aspect of Christmas amidst the new gifts, treats, and overall excitement.  In imitation of the Magi, we "travel" through those 12 days, working to present our gifts to the newborn King.

Three gifts for Baby Jesus:  gold (kind deeds),
frankincense (prayers), myrrh (sacrifices)

May God's blessings be upon all of you!


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