The 12 Days of Christmas Glasses

by Robin Turnipseed

“Do you have any holiday traditions?” I ask of several friends on a humid September afternoon. I am spinning back and forth in my chair, looking out at the green leaves holding tightly onto branches with the ceiling fan in my office running at its highest level. Christmas is the furthest thing from my mind. However, I know that the holidays tend to sneak up on everyone, and I am doing my best to work ahead.

Family traditions fascinate me. I am curious about why certain practices carry staying power while others fall by the wayside with each generation. Holiday traditions, in particular, cause me to question. For example, our 12-foot tree sits in our current home in our entryway because this is the only ample space. However, due to sheer comfort, we enjoy opening our gifts in our living room, so our simple solution was to have the kids pile all the presents on a huge blanket and drag it from the entryway to the living room every Christmas morning. What began as a solution to a problem transformed into a tradition we carry out each year. No matter our location, they pile the gifts on a blanket and pull them over to the couch. It is the practice that must occur before the unwrapping can commence.

Forming Holiday Traditions

As my friends begin to respond to my question, I see that the answers vary: going to the Christmas parade, watching It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve, shaking all the presents hoping to guess what’s inside, throwing a themed party, sleeping under the tree just to look at the lights, tossing out special food for Santa’s reindeers, gathering for a cookie bake and swap, and observing advent each Sunday leading up to Christmas morning.

For my close friend, Trisha, her Christmas tradition involves a set of “12 Days of Christmas” glasses. As she begins to share the details with me, I start laughing, thinking of all the memories they gained from a simple glassware set. Trisha made it sound so fun that I might need to seek out some of my own glasses.

Here are her memories from her favorite holiday tradition:

PPT: You mentioned that your family carried out a unique each year. It sounds like one I may adopt. Tell me the details. 

Trisha: Yes. So we are not really tradition oriented, but they seem to happen when we gather naturally. However, we go to my Aunt Becky’s house every year to have a Christmas party with my mom’s friends from high school. We have gone for as long as I can remember. My aunt has these special drinking glasses with the 12 Days of Christmas printed on them. Every year, everyone wants to arrive at the party first to grab the glass with a good number.

PPT: What do you mean by a “good number”?

Trisha: The goal is to have a high number, like the 12th day. This is because later in the evening, we sit around and sing the entire song, and you sing the day printed on your glass.

PPT: That’s hilarious! So, everyone has to sing, right?

Trisha: Well, everyone sings the first part: “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,” and then each person sings their glass. So, by the song’s end, you have everyone popcorning and singing all their days. It truly is funny. Here’s the game, you don’t want a low number because you must sing your part repeatedly each time we count down. So, if you arrive late to the party and receive the glass with the first-day print, you must sing “and a partridge in a pear tree” twelve times! The higher the number, like the ninth or tenth day, the less singing is required. Also, unless you love to sing, you don’t want the task of holding out the fifth day’s “five golden rings” part. The kids usually want those parts.

PPT: How far back can you remember this tradition?

Trisha: The first party happened in 1990, so I was young, like eleven or twelve, when we started. We used to hate it when we were kids, we just complained about having to participate, but I don’t think we would want to have Christmas without it. It is just fun to run in and get your glass. It brings so much joy.

PPT: We call these occasions forced family fun, and I will forever link you and this song.

Trisha: It is unique. Honestly, I’ve never heard of anyone doing it before. Yes, people sing the song, but no one does it quite the way we do it. Also, we have the book. It is an album where we take a group picture from that year’s party, sign under the photo and record the special events from that year. We usually list what we are thankful for that year and how grateful we are for the friendships and being able to continue to gather together.

PPT: Thank you for sharing your story. Finally, what is one lesson or takeaway that you have learned from this tradition?

Trisha: I learned to appreciate the time spent with the ones we love, even if the tradition may seem silly at the time. It is not necessarily the tradition. It’s the memories of the time spent with family that we carry with us. Time goes quickly, and before you know it, those traditions that we once thought were so silly are lovely memories that we cherish.

Final Thoughts

As a mother, I gained a lesson from Trisha’s story. Even though my kiddos may act like traditions are tedious, I will continue to pursue them. They make for the best kind of memories, the sticky kind. These are the ones that firmly attach, hopefully reappearing later when they may need them the most, yielding happiness and warmth for years to come.

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