As we approach these last 12 shopping days until Christmas, we need to remember a few things.
First the 12 days of Christmas are not the 12 days before Christmas but the 12 days after the holiday. The Christmas season for Christians extends from Christmas Eve until the sixth of January which is the Night of Epiphany. That date is the day that celebrates the arrival of the Magi.
It took those three kings longer than twelve days to get to the manger but that is the traditional day of the celebration. What we really need to be thinking about during these final days before the 25th are the preparations that need to be made. For many Christians, this season is called Advent and it is the time to prepare in a spiritual manner for the coming of the Christ child. There will be readings of the reason for Mary and Joseph returning to Bethlehem and the stories of there being no room at the inn.
Mary and Joseph end up staying in a manger, which is in reality nothing as basic as the shed-like structure we see. There is no way that any pregnant woman would have been so poorly treated by anyone in the Jewish community. The manger was a part of a house and she would have been well-treated. The people of the Jewish culture are just too outgoing, friendly, and welcoming to have done anything else.
Christians will be reminded of the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and His resurrection on the glorious first Easter morning. This is done simply because without Easter there would be no reason to celebrate Christmas; and had there been no birth of the Christ child, there could have been no Easter. The two events are tied together. Carol and I have an Easter egg ornament that we hang every year on our Christmas tree.
Getting back to other preparations for the holiday. During these 12 days, we need to donate to the Toys for Tots campaign so that little ones who might not get a gift do receive something for Christmas. We need to donate to Manna House. While most of us will be eating far more food than we should in preparation for our next year's resolutions to lose weight, there are folks living near us who won't have much to eat during these tough economic times.
They are not looking for lobster or prime rib but they also don't really need water chestnuts either. Basic food items such as soups, vegetables, sugar, flour, turkeys, hams, potatoes, and bread are needed. If you don't want to do the shopping yourself, then drop off a check in one of the buckets outside of Vons or Raley's for those bell-ringing volunteers to turn over to Manna House to feed our neighbors.
Coats for children are needed. It was 12 degrees in some Mountain Area spots and some don't have adequate protection from the cold. I don't want to hear that the parents should handle that. Maybe they should and maybe they can't. The child is cold and we can help. I have a friend who seems to find a couple of coats his children have "outgrown" and "forgotten" when they left the nest. He is kind but a bad liar.
Proof of his antics is that the coats are always brand new. Another friend lives in Clovis and brought a new coat up to Oakhurst last Monday for me to gift to one of my cold students. Her sons are my age so that coat wasn't outgrown either.
One other thing we need to do is remember the joy of the holiday season after the holiday is passed. We seem to greet one another with smiles and expressions of cheer and then that joy seems to disappear. Let's try to extend that holiday joy further out into next year.
Finally ... enjoy the gatherings. The parties and the dinners are not a chore, but a blessing. There may be a relative who can be a pain but they are still family. When those family members are gone, we realize what pleasure they brought us when they were here. Enjoy one another.