Happy second day of Christmas! I wonder how many of us realize that the twelve days of Christmas actually come after Christmas? Sales and marketing types are always looking for ways to get people to part with their hard-earned shekels and the Christmas season offers the perfect opportunity! With Christmas decor coming out immediately after Halloween, most have totally tapped out their holiday cheer by the time Christmas finally rolls around, no one wants to see it extended any longer.
If the historical fiction of the medieval time period I’ve read is correct, we’re really missing out on a time of true festivities by eliminating it. Those kings and queens knew how to party, even if there was political intrigue and deception always going on. The Lord of Misrule (or Abbot of Unreason, Scotland or Prince des Sot, France) was responsible for the revelry which was usually raucous and irreverent, much to the chagrin of the bishops of the Church!
The early church, if fifth century is early, started incorporating feast days of saints into the twelve days of Christmas. To start is off in right jolly form, they selected a martyred saint to begin the festivities. Sometimes I do not understand church thinking!
Actually, there really was a purpose. Whereas Advent is a time of preparation and reflection prior to the birth of Christ, the twelve days of Christmas are a time of celebration and reflection of what the the Incarnation means in our lives.
The Martyrdom of Stephen has been celebrated the day after Christmas since at least the fourth century in Jerusalem. Stephen was one of the first deacons in the nascent Christian community. He was the forerunner of all who show the love of Christ through generosity and service to the poor and needy. Traditionally, it’s been a day to give leftovers to the poor, much like is described in the carol “Good King Wenceslaus“. Stephen’s death reveals the violence and persecution the life of the Incarnate One and his followers might expect.
People of faith, any faith, have faced discrimination and persecution over the centuries. It’s the 21st century and people of faith around the globe still face violence and persecution. Maybe the message from the life of Stephen does have its place during the twelve days of Christmas.