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Twelve days

Tomorrow begins the 12 days of Christmas, which will extend through Twelfth Night, the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6. All that holly-jollying you have been hearing for the past four weeks has taken place in Advent.

This is not to spoil your fun (as one might by pointing out that Jesus almost certainly wasn’t born on Dec. 25, or in Bethlehem, but we’ll leave the scholarship for another time). This is to point out that even though you may have been operating with the understanding that Christmas would be over sometime tomorrow night, you have eleven more days beyond it to make merry.

So if it is your custom to keep Christmas, You Don’t Say wishes you joy in the singing of carols and hymns, the exchange of gifts, the feasting at table and the spread of goodwill. And if your custom follows some other religious tradition or is determinedly secular, You Don’t Say hopes that the seasonal expression of benevolence will take you within its compass.


Posted by John McIntyre at 10:34 AM | | Comments (6)


Of course, if your publication must, absolutely must, run that inane cliche feature about how much it would cost to give the gifts from "The Twelve Days of Christmas" -- when you get to the line about "lords a-leaping," see if you can get Conrad Black on work release to save a few bucks.

Thanks for the reminder about the other 11 days of Christmas, as work won't allow me to mark the holiday with my family until next weekend.

Flew through Baltimore last weekend and got to read a copy of the Sun. Always enjoyable, especially as it seems I caught some of the last from-Russia reporting.

And thanks, again, for the lessons and materials from your class and this blog. I've got two people on my desk with 5 1/2 months professional experience combined, and any guidance helps (me and them).

So I have through January 6 to make merry? Wondrous. Thanks for the reminder from me, too.

Wait--I know Jesus wasn't born in December (September, maybe; April; it doesn't really matter), but not in Bethlehem?

My pastor pointed out that Jesus was probably born in the front "porch" of a family member's house (the front area of houses then being partly enclosed, and being the place that animals were brought just for the night; and Joseph having traveled to his family's hometown, where there would be aunts & uncles). And not in the lonely barn out back of the inn.

I don't have in the office the books by the biblical historian John Dominic Crossan from which I derived that remark, but I can summarize what you will find.

The account of the birth in Bethlehem was written to show a fulfillment of a prophecy by Micah; it is a pious story rather than an historical account. Joseph's going to Bethlehem to be taxed makes no sense; Rome taxed its subjects where they lived. Luke's account has other inconsistencies with the historical record that cannot be resolved. You don't have to stop singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but it is virtually certain that Jesus was born in Nazareth, where his parents lived.

Hmmm...I hadn't heard that one.


(I always feel vaguely cheated at Christmas--my church is very careful to celebrate Advent, which leaves us about 2 Sundays of singing Christmas songs)

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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