In the Time of COVID How a 12 Days Celebration Can Bring Joy  


Jo Lee Loveland Link and John Lin

Many feeling bereft at these holidays are missing close connections usually expected this time of year. This is about how to regain those connections lost through social distancing due to COVID.

A few years ago, we developed an alternative Christmas celebration that is perfect for this time when we must remain apart. “RETURN OF THE THREE KINGS: RECLAIMING THE 12 DAYS FROM CHRISTMAS TO EPIPHANY” — is a bold reimagining and re-consecrating the celebration of Christmas based on the historical “Olde Christmas” and incorporating texts and traditions from readings from World Religions (Judaism, Buddhism, Sufism, Islam, and Native American Faith traditions) — and even some for those who seek secular celebrations.

While honoring the Biblical holy day and Olde Christmas traditions, our book has a major outreach to include all family members who have different points of view or religious perspectives yet seek togetherness and shared meaning at Christmastime.

The 12 Days celebration literally focuses on the days from Christmas Eve to January 6, Epiphany.

The daily celebration over the 12 days includes a shared reading of traditional Christian verses or other sacred or secular texts, stories, or poems. For those missing going to church or other house of worship, this will be surprisingly welcome.

This reading can be followed by a song, or story, or Christmas activity, or meditation.

This is followed by “giving time” for each of the 12 days, often with a small present (stocking stuffers or cards) each day and larger presents one or two of the days. The effect of this pattern of giving and receiving is to create “conscious giving and receiving” rather than the massive gift overload on Christmas morning.

Each person or family can create a 12 Days celebration that fits them, as sacred, serious, or silly fits them. 

Originally designed for traditional gatherings, we also created a special section for those who must celebrate at a distance!!

Here are some ideas we found that can add joy to separate gatherings:

  • Many use Zoom, Skype, and Facetime or just the phone to create connection. The trick is to create shared time that is fun and meaningful for all. The truth is, holidays are often a time for intergenerational communication; so having each person find something to share can result in rich sharing. Poems, brief stories, special creations, jokes, recipes, all work well. We found family writings, letters, and other artifacts that can be shared. What is important is to have an appointed “celebration family time” each of the 12 Days, though flexibility is also a good idea.
  • Send a package with 12 presents or send it in two packages of 6. These need not be large, in fact, smaller is better. We sent our son who lived across the country a package with numbered boxes, 1– 12.As he opened them, we described the intention of each gift.
  • Deployed military can engage in dialogue of their choice with family members as well as provide a time for serious or playful presents. Discoveries and travel stories can bring family members closer.
  • This can be a good time to share family stories, including how the family members may have moved in different directions in their belief systems and yet managed to share holidays that are pleasant.
  • Some may want to send an old family letter in advance to read aloud and respond. Pulling out the family Bible and reading sections of family history can be a source of meaning.

The good news is that Celebration of 12 days can overcome distance and create ways unique to each family build their own 12 Day tradition to share readings, fun activity, or gift-giving. Did I mention after Christmas sales?

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