E. 12 Days of Christmas

You may click on the links for archived posts or simply read the text below (the posts, however, contain the fun links within them).

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 12

1. On the First Day of Christmas: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Did you know that the song, “The 12 Days of Christmas” can be used as a Christian catechism? I’m hoping to join the tradition and teach it to Vivienne over these 12 days, ending with Epiphany on January 6th. I’m also hoping to post some ideas for teaching and celebrating these 12 days. If you have ways to celebrate these days, by all means, let us know!

The partridge reminds us of God’s perfect gift to us: Jesus, His Son.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” Luke 13: 34

Simple ways to teach a little one:

* view a 30 S clip of a real partridge

* review John 3:16 by writing it out and telling its story with stick figures and/or a nativity set

* sing Steve Green’s musical version of John 3:16 throughout the day

* make a pear tree: teach your child how to select and count pears at the grocery store; creatively arrange them in a “pear tree” and munch through the week!

*make a paper bird by laying two pieces of paper on top of each other; sketch and cut out a simple bird shape; decorate the outsides with pictures or colors that remind the child of Jesus; staple or sew around the edges while leaving enough room to stuff the bird with cotton, fabric, or crumpled paper; staple or sew the bird shut (Don’t worry if you don’t have time to do this today, there are plenty of birds in this song; this project could be used for any of those days!)

2. The two turtle doves represent the gift of Scripture: the Old and New Testaments.

“For now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land” (Song of Songs 2:11-12).

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119: 105

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Simple ways to teach a little one:

* Look at pictures and listen to the song of the turtle dove

* Look at a Bible to find the Old Testament and the New Testament (this might be a special occasion to give your child her first Bible!)

* Make a special red bookmark with two doves on it to separate the two testaments. Explain that Jesus’ coming to earth marks the movement from the first part into the second.

* Sing “Thy Word”, “The B-I-B-L-E”

* Talk about how Scripture is God’s voice, teaching and encouraging us in all things; ask the child if any verses mean a lot to him right now; share some Scripture that is meaningful to you and briefly explain why

3. Three french hens remind us of the theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.

“And now abideth faith, hope charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Simple ways to teach a little one:
* If you have a toddler, you probably have a picture book about chickens somewhere! Pull it out and get in a chicken sort of mood. (My little one even has a chicken costume and a chicken dance…)

* Make eggs for breakfast together (little ones love crackin’ those eggs)

* Divide the day into thirds and talk about one of the virtues at a time:

faith: ask your child to close her eyes; lead her around the house, having her step over things, crouch down, stop suddenly, turn around, etc. Then, squinting, switch roles. Explain that when we have faith in God, we may not see everything clearly, but we can trust Him to protect and love us.

hope: before nap time, explain that afterwards you will be doing something special together, having a special snack, etc. Explain that the child must go to sleep hoping for that special treat. (Be sure to deliver the promise on the other side of nap time!)

charity: plan and do something special for a family member or neighbor. Deliver a loaf of bread before dinner time, decorate the living room for dad’s return from work, set surprises by each family member’s plates. Explain that loving God and people is the best thing we can do with our lives.

At bedtime, review the three virtues and the associated activities. Remind the child that everything else we see and do will break, grow old, or be forgotten, but anytime we have faith in God, hope in His goodness, and extend charity to Him and others, we are doing things that last and last and last forever…

4. The four calling birds represent the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

The original Old English version of this song referred to “colly” birds – not “calling” birds – which are darker birds that usually live in cities and have a beautiful song.

Simple Ways to Teach a Little One:

*After singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” together, explain today’s original wording and talk about how words can get all mixed up over time or through translation (Whisper Down the Lane is a great way to teach this, in part.) Ask, “years and years from now, how might people say our names incorrectly?” (Imaginative wordy preschoolers like my daughter might get a kick out of this one.)

*Look at a red-letter Bible together. Let your child find the section with red-lettering. Explain that these are the words that Jesus spoke when He lived on earth as a human. Because four of Jesus’ friends – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – wrote down some of the things that Jesus said and did, we can read about Him and learn about the kingdom of God. The four books are called, “the gospels,” which means “the good news”. Because Jesus’ friends wrote the good news, Jesus’ words did not get mixed up over time (like the “colly” bird!).

* Cut out four black birds. Punch holes in the top. Tie yarn through the holes. With a white, gold, or silver marker (or white-out), write one of the names on each bird. Make these into a mobile and hang them in a prominent area… or hang them on your Christmas tree

* By the end of the day, help your child to remember the names of Jesus’ four friends who wrote down some of the things He said and did… Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!

Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.

(Hab. 2:3)

5. The five golden rings represent the Pentateuch: the first five books of the Old Testament

(Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).

Simple ways to teach a little one:

* Here’s where a little bit of useful review comes into play: review the two turtledoves (the OT and NT), then let your child show you once again where the gospels are (hint: find the section of the Bible with lots of red letters since those were the words that Jesus spoke). Then, explain that the first part of the Bible contains five books that teach us about creation, sin, God’s law, and God’s promise to save us through Jesus.

* Make a paper chain from five rings of yellow/gold paper. On each ring, write one of the books of the Pentateuch.

Using plastic rings, gold thread, or construction paper, let your child wear five rings on her fingers today and recite the Pentateuch often, wiggling each finger as you go.

6. The six geese represent the six days of Creation.

“And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

Simple ways to teach a little one:

* Watch a short clip of a Canada Goose incubating her eggs

* Talk about the process of a daddy and mommy goose making an egg, which grows into another goose, which will make an egg, which will grow into another goose… Explain that God created this process so that the earth would restore itself. It’s important to take care of animals, mommies, daddies, and babies!

Read Genesis 1 together and make a “God’s Creation” poster using dried beans for the land, aluminum foil for the stars, fake feathers for the birds, stickers, stamps, and magazine cut-outs.

7. The 7 swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and compassion.

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us…” Romans 12:6

Simple ways to teach a little one:

* Transform 7 plastic votive holders, walnut shells, corks, marshmallows or anything else that floats into swans using white paint, cotton balls, fabric. If you’ve chosen safe items, let the child play with them in the bath tub. Playfully identify each swan by name: Prophecy, Ministry, Teaching, etc. Get ready to explain what these names mean, too: you know he’ll ask! :)

* Explain the gifts of the Holy Spirit in general. Ask your child which gift(s) she thinks the Holy Spirit has given to her; ask her which gift(s) she wants. Encourage her by identifying relevant strengths or leanings that you notice in her life. (This might be a conversation that develops into a tender explanation of salvation and how making Jesus our Lord transforms our lives. One way we are transformed is through the gifts that God gives us.)

Later in the day, create a story about how a little girl or boy was able to help others by using the gifts from the Holy Spirit.

8. The eight maids a-milking represent the eight beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10

Simple ways to teach a little one:

* Pull out the dairy products today and talk about how cows provide the milk for these products.  (In this house, we’re rice milk-ers, but we indulge in some cow-inspired cheese, ice cream, and yogurt now and then.)

* Read a book about a cow providing milk (We like the Little House on the Prairie stories about Almanzo milking cows and cleaning out stalls…)

* Before reading today’s verses together, explain that “blessed,” simply means “happy”.  Who are the happiest people you know?  What are they like? What do they do?

Read today’s verses and focus on one or two to explain in simple language.  Pray together that God would help both of you live in the example Jesus describes.

9. The nine dancing ladies represent the nine fruits of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galations 5: 22, 23

Simple ways to teach a little one:

* Get your dancing shoes on today! Play your favorite song of praise and sing to the Lord together!

* Cut out nine pictures of fruit and paste them on a piece of paper.  Label each fruit with one of the fruits of the Spirit.  Hang the paper up by your child’s bed and, when praying for family and friends, ask the child to choose a fruit of the Spirit to pray into each person’s life.  Also, pray that your entire family would be full of the fruit!

Over sliced apples or banana wheels, explain that God develops these amazing qualities in us when we spend time with Him and listen to His Spirit, who lives inside of everyone who follows Jesus Christ.

10. The ten lords a-leaping represent the 10 Commandments.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

7Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

12Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13Thou shalt not kill.

14Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15Thou shalt not steal.

16Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. Exodus 20

Simple ways to teach a little one:

* Trace your child’s hands on a piece of paper.  Together, decorate each finger as a “lord” with colorful hats, etc.

* Read “The Story of Moses and the 10 Commandments for Children” online or another version of the story that is accessible for children. As you read each commandment, point to a different finger on your drawing.

* Choose one of the commandments to focus on, describing how it is relevant to you and your child.

* Explain that when we obey these commandments, we make God happy and we are free… free enough to LEAP!

Play your own version of leap-frog, each “leaper” reciting a different commandment as she leaps!

11. The 11 Pipers Piping represent the 11 Faithful Apostles.

“And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.” Luke 6: 13 – 16

Simple ways to teach a little one:

* Listen to bagpipes being played!

* Count the 11 pipers in the above photo. Talk about how Jesus stayed up all night to pray about whom he would choose to be His closest friends and followers.  He chose 12 disciples. 11 of them were faithful to Him. One of them was not: Judas Iscariot was selfish and betrayed Jesus.  But the 11 who were faithful to Jesus have changed the world: they were the first people in the Church!  Their voices were so powerful: like the sound of bagpipes!

* Draw 11 stick figures and name each one, talking about how they listened to Jesus and learned to obey everything He told them.

* Then, ask the child to add drawings of your family members to the picture, explaining that we are Jesus’ disciples, too.  Add names to the drawing.

Together, ask the Holy Spirit to help you be faithful disciples.

12. The 12 Drummers Drumming represent the 12 Points of Doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

Simple ways to teach your little one:

* Get out the pots and pans! Get out all kinds of drumsticks: toothpicks to markers to wooden spoons! Make a drum circle and enjoy the rhythm together.

*  Explain that although the Apostle’s Creed is not in the Bible, it summarizes some of the most important truths in the Bible.  Read it aloud.  Listen and watch Rich Mullin’s musical version of the Creed.

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