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Twelve Days of Rest


By winter's onset, daylight was short, the harvest was finished, and all winter provisions should have been stocked. During the Twelve Days all work was forbidden, other than necessary care of farm animals and daily meal preparations. The applied equally to "women's work" such as spinning, even though it could be done indoors where it was warmer. This prohibition on work during Yuletide was even set into law by the Anglo-Saxon king, Alfred the Great.

There were other incentives to be sure that all chores were completed on time - any work attempted during the Twelve Days would be undone or spoiled: the "devil" would cut down any flax left on the distaff (a staff to hold unspun fibers); milling would cause all grain within earshot to go rotten; laundry hung out to dry would be carried off by Odin's pack of wild dogs; etc. The reward for meeting the deadline was twelve days off - a generous holiday break even today. January 7 was called "St. Distaff's Day" - a tongue-in-cheek name for the end of women's leisure (there was/is no saint by this name). Men, on the other hand, were off until "Plough Monday" - the first Monday after the Twelfth Day.

I know that while cleaning the house for Christmas Eve dinner I felt like I was earning my twelve days of rest, and am glad it has come! Merry Christmas to you and yours from all of us at Twelve Days!

Twelve Days of Fortelling the Future


Many old folk traditions to foretell the future became associated with the Twelve Days of Christmas. For instance, dreams during the Twelve Nights were believed to foreshadow events that would occur in the ensuing year. The weather  (sun, wind, snow, rain) on the Twelve Days of Christmas was thought to predict the weather for each of the corresponding twelve months of the new year. 


It was not just the country folk who believed in the predictive value of the Twelve Days: Tycho Brahe, a pioneering 16th-century astronomer, theorized that the configuration of the heavenly bodies could be used to forecast the weather in the coming months and meticulously recorded his observations during the Twelve Days of Christmas to test his theory. Although predicting weather by the Twelve Days is not a quaint relic in the Old Farmer's Almanac, this is not as far-fetched as it may seem - scientists today still study events in space to analyze their potential effects on our weather.




The Astronomical Observations: The Moon, 1711, by Donato Creti

1 Day Until Christmas - Share Some Family Recipes

Gift idea: Favorite family recipes 

Makes a good gift for: Good last minute gift for someone who likes to cook or bake

I think most people have a secret stash of recipes – whether they be in their head or on paper – that are worth sharing. I am not necessarily talking about the secret family recipe for chocolate chip cookies or meatloaf, but more day-to-day recipes that can work for a weeknight dinner, and maybe a couple more special occasion recipes. Why not type up some recipes, print them out on index cards or card stock and put together a little bundle of recipes or a little family cookbook? If you want to do a little more, you could head to the grocery store and pick up any of the more rare ingredients (like special spices or herbs), a couple cute dish-towels, an apron or cooking utensils and make a little gift-basket.

2 Days Until Christmas - A Cozy Christmas Light Tour!


Gift idea: a cozy tour of Christmas lights in your neighborhood

Makes a good gift for: Anyone!


If you are like me, then you LOVE Christmas lights. I love every evening when the lights switch on (ours are on a timer) and seeing them shimmer and flash through the windows. I love bundling up and taking the dog out for a walk and oohing and aahing at the great lights in our neighborhood.

A fun last-minute and very low-cost gift would be to take a Christmas-light lover like me on a cozy tour of the best lights in the area. You should scope out a couple neighborhoods a few nights before and take notes as to where the best places are. Then arrange (or surprise) your guest of honor with a tour - complete with a travel mug of hot cocoa or hot cider, and of course some Christmas music! You could wrap up the evening by stopping somewhere to get a slice of pie, or maybe a milkshake. Sounds like a fun night to me!

3 Days Until Christmas - Homemade Craft Projects

Gift idea: DIY Crafts 

Makes a good gift for: Good last minute gift for family members

Every Christmas when I was a kid, my mom would get me some kind of craft to do during Christmas break. There were a few years where it was decorating ornaments that were then given away to family members as Christmas gifts. As I got older, I enjoyed helping my grandmother decorate her Christmas tree and seeing the ornaments I had made as a kid go up on her tree, year after year.

Below are a couple of fun crafts that you should have all the necessary ingredients for either on-hand already, or be able to easily acquire at the grocery store. I think all of these would make a great last-minute gift, and some of them would also be a great holiday-time craft to do with any little ones that might be hanging around!

Make your own salt dough ornaments – another fun activity to do with kids and makes a great gift for all the family members! 

Ingredients needed: 
4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1.5 cups warm water
Paint and decorations for the ornaments 

For instructions, see thehappyhousewife.com

Make your own gardener’s hand scrub – great gift for a gardener or mechanic, or just someone who needs a little pampering. 

Ingredients needed: 
Dawn dish soap with Olay Beauty Hand Renewal (this is what the blogger used, but I bet this would work with any kind of dish soap) 
Jars to put the hand scrub in 

For instructions, see onegoodthingbyjilee.com

Make your own play dough – a fun gift to make for kids, and a fun activity to do with kids. 

Ingredients needed: 
Vegetable oil 
Cream of tarter 
Food coloring 
Containers to store/give the play dough in 

For instructions, see anartnest.squarespace.com

Homemade finger paints – another fun gift to make for little ones – and totally non-toxic! 

Ingredients needed: 
Corn starch 
Food coloring 
Jars for storing/giving the paint in 

For instructions, see theberry.com

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