CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

Over the past few days, I have been busy with an Instagram story in the form of a sort of digital Advent Calendar, with photos and music (when I can find an appropriate song). I had just started on about Day 2 and I noticed that suddenly everyone seemed to be doing the same. A huge compliment, but probably more a case of ‘great minds think alike’.

I was searching for something a little bit different, not just photos from Pinterest and music (you know all the ones you hear non-stop on the radio around this time of year) – just something a little bit different.

Then I suddenly thought about an old Christmas song I remember from my childhood about the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is one of those repeating songs, but everyone seems to know it:

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me ‘A partridge in a pear tree’. Not exactly the handiest of presents I would guess, anno 2020, and you would always be worried if the partridge would stay sitting on the branches or just fly off (ha-ha). Not to mention all of those people who go on about animal protection rights etc.

So, the song goes on:

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me ‘Two turtle doves’ and of course repeat the sentence once more about the partridge in the pear tree.

The third day  – 3 French Hens

The fourth day – 4 Calling Birds

The fifth day – Five Golden Rings

The sixth day – 6 Geese a laying

The seventh – 7 Swans a swimming

The eight – 8 Maids a milking

The ninth – 9 Ladies dancing

The tenth – 10 Lords a leaping

The eleventh – 11 Drummers drumming

The twelfth – 12 Pipers piping

I got interested in the origin of this song, because the majority of English-speaking children know it well and were all taught. It is sort of like a game of Memory … that you remember what you got the day before and right back to day one.

And guess what this song seems to be the most popular Christmas song ever! It has been recorded by many artists, even to present day. The lyrics were first published in 1780 !!! but there is some suggestion that the original words came from France (maybe this was the reference to the 3 French hens). Weren’t English ones good enough?

The song is all about the presents that someone receives over Christmas from their true love … long before we had online shopping and top list suggestions.

The song really starts on 26th December (Boxing Day) and goes on until 6th January (12th night). Boxing Day is also known as the feast of St Stephen.

The song is comprised of what is called ‘chain lyrics’ or in other words, repeating sentences, a bit like I said above, a memory game.

The best-known version is the song that James O Halliwell published in 1842 in the 4th edition of the Nursery Rhymes of England (1846). I mean this is really old and traditional.

So many versions have been made in many languages, apparently even in Dutch (and I did not know this) by Jan Rot. You learn something every day!

But there are so many traditions around the month of December. More than any other month in the year. Is it because we are recalling memories before the year comes to an end? Nostalgia? 

Yesterday one of the grandchildren was telling me the story of Christmas and all about the birth of Jesus, ‘in a stable’ he said: ‘in a crib’. It is actually very lovely how the children in 2020 are still talking about probably the most famous story of all time. I had to laugh when his mother asked him: ‘and who were the parents of Jesus Christ’. His reply was” ‘how many times have I said that you mustn’t say Jesus Christ, it’s just Jesus, he was a baby’. And if there was ever sense in the saying: ‘from the mouths of babes’. 

But Christmas this year (2020) is going to be very different for many people all over the world, so perhaps it is exactly the right time to remind ourselves of the old traditions and stories. Sing the old songs, dance around the house, turn up the volume. And yes, it’s perfectly ok to allow the emotion to come through as well. As it will.

Modern technology (Facetime, Skype and video calling) makes it possible for all of us to connect all over the world. It may not be the same as sitting down around the table as a family, but you can certainly have a Zoom breakfast all together on Christmas Morning. Why not? That is the upside of technology today.

That was why I started by Instagram Advent Calendar story at the beginning of this month, it was looking back at old traditions and stories and rhymes. And some are really ancient. But the whole point is that it jogs a memory in you again, memories of your own childhood, parents, grandparents and all the things you did.

I remember when I was very young, we always used to walk in the village to the phone box (goodness this is making me sound ancient too) and phone my grandparents who lived several hundreds of miles away in the north of England. It was (in my recollections) always a dark starry night, frosty and on the way back home my father would always ask if I could hear the bells on Santa’s sleigh? I only have to hear the first few notes from the song, Jingle Bells, and it reminds me of those Christmas times long ago. 

I am not missing the commercial side of Christmas at all this year with shopping restrictions, you can get literally everything online these days, delivered to your door, but you miss the atmosphere, the Christmas markets, the smell of gluhwein (which I love) not so much for the actual red wine, as I normally cannot drink it, but those scents and aromas you always remember, spices, oranges, cinnamon, cloves etc. All those memories stored away in your mind. The endless Christmas songs playing on the radio.

Recently, I have watched a huge amount of Christmas movies on Netflix etc. The same story, always, romance, love etc., but the thing is the atmosphere, built around it. Decorating the tree, singing carols, making gingerbread houses, hot chocolate with marshmallows, peppermint lattes, candy canes, but most important and the purpose of this blog, to remind us all about the connection with one another. Forgiving and forgetting those who may have acted in ways we did not expect, quarrels, disagreements or things that offended us. Let it go and make this time a moment to reconnect. With a fresh view. Getting ready to step into 2021.

Working together with one central theme, LOVE.

Astrologically it is the perfect moment, you can read all about it on all the socials. Saturn and Jupiter will come together and appear like two big stars very close together in the night skies. They are actually both at 0 degrees in star sign Aquarius. The beginning of the new age, remember? Now that was a famous song too!

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Jill Kramer

Hi! I'm Jill and I'm a passionate author of books, short stories, columns and blogs.

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