The 12 day birthday party

What do you think of when you hear the date December 26th? Perhaps it’s Boxing Day and you’re out hitting the sales. Or maybe you think of it as recovery day. You know, that day when you know you’ve survived Christmas and now it’s time to stay in bed, preferably with the covers pulled over your head. It’s the day you eat the Christmas leftovers and wonder how your children are already bored with their new toys. Magical may not be the word that comes to mind.

There is a sacred time tucked into our calendar that often goes unnoticed. Partly because we have over-committed leading up to it and therefore spend it in recovery. Partly because we are so busy, we set the 25th aside for celebrating and move on to life as usual in the days following. However this sacred time is part of the Church calendar and is called Christmastide. The period that begins on Christmas morning and lasts for twelve days until Epiphany. It is the extended celebration time that marks a 12-day birthday party for the Christ child. Many of us are familiar with Advent, the season of preparation before Christmas, but Christmastide is a lesser-known “feast”. If we all get a birthday once a year, it is only fitting that Jesus would get a 12-day mark.

What I’ve found is that this time is already a natural fit for the rhythm of the year (or perhaps this rhythm stems from the historic 12-days of Christmas). It’s a quiet time as a family. There is often less expected of us as far as where we are and what we produce. School is still out. Regular activities like sports practice and orchestra rehearsal are on break. And for many of us there is a break from office work during that time. It’s as if we are culturally taking a big sigh between Christmas and New Year’s.

The question I asked myself in my new book Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season, is how can we be intentional about this extended celebration? We are celebrating the miracle that changed history, God stepping onto earth as a baby, so that he might pursue us. This deserves an extended celebration like no other. And so some quiet days (unscheduled, slower pace, sleeping in when kids allow) and some literal feasts (cooking what we love, having others over for a meal, long conversations at the table) as well as a bit of celebrating (doing our favorite activities, getting outside, and good old fashioned, guilt-free fun.)

When we look back on this Christmas a year from now, or ten years from now, what will we remember? What will our children remember? My hope is that mine will remember a mother who celebrated with her whole heart. She wasn’t stressed about the Christmas card picture and decorated mantle. She was anticipating the baby in the manger and then throwing a party when he arrived.


Alexandra Kuykendall

You can read more about Alexandra Kuykendall’s experiment to put an end to the holiday madness in her new book Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season. A trusted voice in mothering circles, Alex speaks to women around the world about issues of parenting, faith and identity. She is the Cohost of The Open Door Sisterhood Podcast and has also authored Loving My Actual Life and The Artist’s Daughter. Alex lives in the shadows of downtown Denver with her husband Derek and their 4 daughters who range in age from 15 to 6. You can connect with her at


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