Archdiocese’s 'Twelve Days of Christmas’ extends holiday celebration

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, December 24, 2020

Many people, when they wake up on the morning of Dec. 26, think Christmas is over. It’s time to put away the decorations and stow the wrapping paper for another year.

A team from the Archdiocese of Chicago is saying, “Not so fast,” and is using a classic Christmas carol and YouTube to do so.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” celebrates the Christmas season, running from Christmas day, the feast of the Incarnation, to the traditional date of Epiphany, Jan. 6, and it is believed that gifts listed in the carol, from the 12 drummers drumming to the partridge in the pear tree, are based on the tradition and the teachings of the church, said Father Andrew Liaugminas, director and chaplain of Calvert House, the Catholic ministry at University of Chicago.

A video reflection based on each day of the carol will be posted on the archdiocesan YouTube channel, Catholic Chicago, at 7 a.m. each day from Dec. 26 to Jan. 6.

“Tradition has it that it was English Catholics catechizing their children at home during the Reformation, when they could not practice their faith publicly,” Liaugminas said. “It was kind of a memory aid for them.”

Liaugminas had already been talking about the need to extend the celebration of the Incarnation at least through the octave of Christmas with Bishop Robert Casey, the vicar general, so when the idea for reflections based on “The Twelve Days of Christmas” came to him, he suggested it.

Bishop Casey brought the idea to the Department of Parish Vitality and Mission, which coordinated the project. Krystle Erler, events manager for department, said that in addition to extending the celebration of Christmas, the video series is intended to celebrate diversity, highlighting the days that happen between Christmas and Epiphany and connect parishes to Renew My Church.

The series starts with a reflection from Cardinal Cupich on the first gift of the song, a partridge in a pear tree, which symbolizes Jesus, the true gift of Christmas. It continues with a new reflection each day, coming from parishes all over the archdiocese, making it “a little pilgrimage through the archdiocese digitally” before concluding Jan. 6 with Bishop Casey’s reflection on 12 drummers drumming, and the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed.

Those offering reflections also highlight some of the important feast days that fall within the 12 days, including the feasts of St. Stephen on Dec. 26, the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28 and St. Thomas Becket on Dec. 29.

Deacon Dan Welter, archdiocesan chancellor, and Todd Williamson, director of the Office for Divine Worship, helped contact people in parishes who were recommended by archdiocesan staff who work with them, and Welter is contributing a reflection on nine ladies dancing, and the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Welter said the analogy in the song includes the giver of the gifts.

“Who’s your true love? It’s God,” he said. “And these are all gifts from God that have been given to us as part of our church history. It’s a good thing to remember what all these presents are that we get at this time of the year.”

Everyone Welter asked to be part of the project was more than willing, he said, and all of the reflections are different. Some, like his, are simple talks. Other presenters are using music, and some included choirs or other people.

That’s the case for Phil Caffee, music director of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Oak Lawn, who offered a spoken reflection on eight maids a-milking and the Eight Beatitudes. His reflection includes the parish adult contemporary choir singing “Lead Me, Lord.”

The project made him reflect on the blessings of 2020, he said.

“It was about not looking at 2020 as a year of distress, or not only that,” he said. “This has been a time that people grew in faith from, a time of trial, when we came to understand God more.”

Liaugminas said that it’s fitting to use “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” a carol that is believed to have originated in a dark and troubled time for Catholics, in this year of isolation for many people.

“It was a time intense difficulty for Catholics practicing their faith, but Catholics in the face of difficulties have not only continued to practice their faith but grown in their faith,” he said. “That idea really struck me this year, when we have our own challenges and difficulties. Maybe we can connect with our ancestors of old who dealt with their difficulties, and maybe there is some kinship there.”


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