Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Morgan Griffith on the Twelve Days of Christmas

(Hurrah for me...Monday's e-mails are in sight already, and it's only Wednesday!) From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith, R-VA-9:

Celebrating All Twelve Days of Christmas
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is one of the most popular carols for this time of the year. Its alliteration like “swans a swimming,” outlandish gifts like “twelve lords a leaping,” and repetition make it an enjoyable song to sing and hear. Artists from Perry Como to John Denver and the Muppets have recorded their own versions that are played during the Christmas season.
The exact origins of the lyrics have been lost to time. Some theories suggest the song originated in France, while others point to the north of England.
But we should not let the unusual nature of the song’s gifts or uncertainty about the origins of the carol to take away from the point that there are twelve days of Christmas. When decorations appear in stores and promotions for holiday shopping start in October, it may seem that everything is building towards Christmas Day on December 25th alone. But the days after Christmas have their own meanings, too.
Take Boxing Day. On December 26th, Britain and many countries with strong cultural ties to it celebrate Boxing Day, although it is not a tradition that made it to the British colonies that became the United States.
Professor Mark Connelly of the University of Kent notes, “While Christmas Day was about being at home with your family, Boxing Day was a time to get outside, to get away from the home.”1 Fox hunting and horse racing are pastimes often associated with the day. It is also a popular day for soccer, just as many Americans look forward to watching football on our Thanksgiving.
Perhaps the name of the holiday came from the boxed gifts given by aristocrats to their servants for the Christmas season. Or perhaps the name came from the church boxes which contained donations for the poor and were opened the day after Christmas. This suggestion seems appropriate, for December 26th is also St. Stephen’s Day. The day’s link to charity is immortalized in the first lines of the traditional Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas:”
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay 'round about
Deep and crisp and even
As the song goes, when the king looked out on St. Stephen’s Day, he saw a poor man gathering fuel. Wenceslas called for his page to gather food and drink to take to the poor man’s house. As the pair went forth to their task on the freezing day, the page found warmth by following in the footsteps of the good king.
Another tradition involving good kings comes at the end of the Twelve Days, on January 6th, which is Epiphany. The kings celebrated on this day are known variously as the Three Kings, the Three Wise Men, or the Magi. We are familiar with them through the Book of Matthew and carols such as “We Three Kings.”
Epiphany celebrates the visit of the Three Kings to Jesus in Bethlehem bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In Spain and Latin America, the day is also known as “Three Kings’ Day.” Just as children here write letters to Santa, in cultures that celebrate this day, they write to the Three Kings asking for gifts.
On January 5th, the kings arrive in a parade atop live camels and accompanied by floats and pages tossing candy into the crowd. That night, children put out bread and water for the camels and awake the next morning to find their shoes filled with presents from the kings.2
Like the lyrics of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” many of these holiday celebrations originated in past ages, when the world looked much different, and for reasons we might not even know with certainty. I believe it is a testament to the magic of the Christmas season that these celebrations remain vital and beloved in many places around the modern world.
Whether they are spent outdoors, as Boxing Day is often done, or performing acts of charity, as the carol of “Good King Wenceslas” celebrates, I hope you can treasure all the days of Christmas.
By the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, we will have begun the 115th Congress and will hopefully do great things for America during this session. On the eighteenth day of this Congress, Donald Trump will be inaugurated, and then we will have real change and hope.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.