The way that Christmas fell this year means that I can save my New Year message for next week. You will be reading this on or about 28th December. It’s the fourth day of Christmas, with four calling birds appearing at my true love’s front door.
But did you know that the 12 days of Christmas are in fact a code devised in the sixteenth century to allow a kind of catechism during the period when Roman Catholicism was outlawed? The Twelve drummers are twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed; the eleven pipers symbolize the eleven faithful disciples; the ten Lords are the Ten Commandments; nine ladies are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit; the eight maids are the Beatitudes, the seven swans the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; six geese are the six days of the Creation, the five gold rings represent the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Old Testament; the four calling birds are the four Gospels; the three French hens are Faith, Hope and Charity, the two turtledoves are the Old and new Testaments, and the Partridge in the pear tree is Jesus on the Cross. My true love of course, is God, or perhaps his Church on earth.
I have always liked the period between Christmas and the New Year. It often gets colder, the parties are largely on hold pending Hogmanay; it’s a time for eating up the cold turkey, sorting out the house, getting some exercise to counterbalance Christmas excess, and perhaps to ponder just a bit. I always produce a kind of written balance sheet of my life. It lists my aims and ambitions, achievements and failures, joys and sorrows. And crucially it comes up with a series of practical steps which I will take in the New Year to get things going again. Perhaps I will share a few with you next week.
But for now, I hope you get a little period of quiet reflection, of post-Christmas satisfaction, of down-time, perhaps ‘me time’ in modern parlance, and for me at least a politics-free zone. So, I hope you have a restful and reflective Fourth Day of Christmas, and perhaps put some time aside for a little balance sheet drafting, enjoy some time with friends or family, relax and recover. A little bit of rest and recuperation before the New Year stretches ahead of us and all the doubts and wonders which it may bring.