In our home, some years ago, we elected to gather as a family and do our gift exchange and feasting on January 6th, "Three Kings Day". There were many practical reasons for this - and certainly, with children now fully grown and integrating into new households, it reduces the pressure on them to compete for time and attention with their "new" family.
We also found that marking the "Twelve Days" starting with December 25th was a wonderful way to spread out and savor what this special time of year truly means, in much the same way our family cherishes the rituals and time-marking of the Advent Sundays leading up to Christmas Day.
To reduce the emphasis on the commercialism of Christmas, we began marking the "Twelve Days of Giving" leading up to Christmas Day as a complement to the "Twelve Days of Christmas" that follows. It also helps refocus one on what is important; and helps one prepare for the joy and wonderment and possibility that a New Year filled with new beginnings can bring; as well as reflect with gratitude the many blessings we all enjoy but rarely take enough time to fully acknowledge.
So, with that in mind, I thought I would share our family's Countdown to Christmas and 12 Days of Giving.
Day 12: "All of God's Creatures"
The unseasonably warm weather here in the DC area has played havoc with non domestic animals. A few nights of below freezing weather reminded us that we need to prepare to support the many varieties of animals and birds that find refuge in the watershed green space behind our home. As suburban sprawl encroaches on their natural habitat, survival often means relying on assistance from their territorial interlopers - us.
We've stocked up on bird seed and other assorted goodies for our other furry friends and planned on ways to ensure they have easy access to fresh water.