Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Traditions: The Twelve Days of Christmas

I started to come up with this idea last December 26, just as the Day-After-Christmas Letdown began to set in. Is it just me or do you feel this big build-up of anticipation and hard work leads to a kind of anti-climatic ending. Or at least a sense of, "that's it?!?!" (Or is that my Grinchy side just shining through?). Anyway, I wanted a way to extend the festivities through the twelve days of Christmas, or, the pagan Twelfthtide. I thought something similar to an advent calendar would be nice, but without gifts or any association with more stuff (except Jan. 6 when The Three Kings--or Befana, the Italian witch, I haven't decided who will be bearing shoe gifts this year--will put a small gift in each person's shoes).

My inspiration for this Twelve Days Calendar was this book by Maine author/artists Dahlov Ipcar. In it, the narrator looks out her window on Christmas night and, one at a time, sees twelve groups of objects on her tree--a bright shining star and eleven animals indigenous to Maine.

I made a quilted Christmas tree and needle felted one of each animal (I did not want to make 12 chickadees, 11 chipmunks, etc.!) and a star. I put little pockets at the bottom to store the animals until their appointed day arrives. I envision it like this: We'll read the whole book Christmas night, then we'll open the present in which the tree is wrapped, hang it up, and each night take turns adding an animal, and reading that passage from the book.

You might notice a big space where an animal is missing (btw sorry about the poor lighting/photo quality, but I'm home during only about five minutes of natural daylight these days). The blue jay flew off somewhere between finishing the hooks and hanging loops on the couch and carrying it up to my bedroom Sunday night. I'm hoping it flies home to roost before Christmas, or at least before January 3, its appointed night of appearance on the tree. Here's a close-up of it, for identification in case you see it fly by (you can go to my Flickr page to see the rest of the animals up-close).

From what little I have read about Twelfthtide, it involved fire and candlelight (quite logically). I bought one of these twelve-candle birthday rings (I wasn't going to, because they are rather expensive, but then Rosie Hippo had a sale, making it a bit more reasonably priced--of course I ended up buying three more things so I did not save any money...and spent quite a bit more than I planned!) I thought we'd light all of the candles on Christmas night, then take one away each day, replacing it with a small wooden tree, snowman or person (I was going to buy some more, bigger trees, but they were out of stock by the time the idea came to me--next year!)

I thought these might be two tiny but nice ways to carry ritual and celebration into the more bleak time of year. I'll keep you posted on how it works (and maybe even a better picture of the tree and its denizens some day when the light is better!)


  1. Lovely!

    (I have coveted those birthday rings in the catalogue before but they were so expensive).

  2. OH my. You have such talent (or patience, which is also a talent) to craft something like this. I love the idea of extending the holiday to include the rest of the pagan soltice. It reminds everyone that there's more than one celebration going on, I think, and puts some roots in the natural world around us, too.

  3. That is really awesome!! I just love that tree quilt and animals!!

  4. omg(oddess) - the needle-felted animals are incredible - what a gorgeous book and idea! more pics please!


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