I'm startled sometimes to find that something I've always
known to be true is unclear to others, either because it's
not part of their heritage or somehow people have lost track
of why something is the way it is and what is a mistaken
idea is now taken as truth.
One is the idea of the "immaculate conception". It has
nothing to do with the conception of Jesus and the belief
that he was the son of God. Instead, the immaculate
conception was that of Mary, Jesus' mother. Those who
believe in the immaculate conception believe that she was
the only human being born without original sin on her soul.
Another is the twelve days of Christmas. The twelve days of
Christmas isn't the twelve days before Christmas. It's the
twelve days between Christmas and January 6th, the Feast of
Epiphany. You can read more about Epiphany at
When I was a little girl I remember that this was the day
that a small paper bag of hard candies and an orange was
given to each child at Sunday Mass as a reminder of the
gifts the three kings had brought to Baby Jesus. We used to
celebrate Christmas beginning on Christmas Eve, at the
earliest, but like everything else, it's been moved up and
now everything ends on New Years Day and people who have
taken vacation time usually go back to work by January 2nd.
The British celebrate the day after Christmas as Boxing Day.
It has nothing to do with the sport but instead is a legal
holiday in parts of the Commonwealth marked by the giving of
Christmas boxes (money and other gifts) to charitable
institutions, needy individuals and people in service jobs.
Boxing Day is also the Feast Day of St. Stephen, the first
Christian martyr. Do you know the traditional Christmas
carol, Good King Wenceslas?
Good King Wenceslas went out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even.
December 28th is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.
The Magi went to Herod asking where the new King of Jews
might be found. Herod took the idea of a prophesied King of
the Jews as a threat, so called the high priests to find out
where the Baby was. They told him where to look, and he sent
the Magi out to find the Child and report back so he could
go and "worship," too. The Magi found Jesus -- but, knowing
Herod's heart, didn't go back to reveal His whereabouts and
the Holy Family, warned by an angel, made their flight into
Egypt. To try to prevent this possible threat to his power,
Herod had all the baby boys in Bethlehem who were two years
old and younger killed.