Welcome to “One Catholic’s Guide to Pentecostal Traditions, Terms, and Nuances”!
I remember the first time I heard that the “12 days of Christmas” were actual days (12 of them), and not merely an enigmatic song perfected by John Denver and the Muppets in 1979. I was working as a pastoral intern and a wonderful church in Walhalla, ND and was attending my first ever “Ministerial Association” meeting, where pastors from various congregations and denominations get together to collaborate on anything they can find common ground about.
In preparing for their annual Community Christmas Dinner, one comment stood out to me. The local Catholic priest, a younger man, was in attendance and softly suggested possibly, maybe, kind of, hypothetically having a celebration at some point after Christmas Day, “since Christmas continues for 12 more days…”. The idea was immediately and frankly cast aside, but I remember sitting there, conscious of two thoughts racing through my head.
First: “SWEET! Maybe he can tell me what the heck a Colly bird is and why the heck I’d need four of them!!!”
Second: “Wow, this man has guts! Suggesting something as crazy, illogical, and out-on-a-limb-esque must’ve taken some real courage, especially since he has to know it will be shot down!” I was all for trying new, zany, trendy things to get people involved in church, but to try to drag it out for an extra couple of weeks seemed drudgery, at best, and a participation in the over-commercialization of the season, at worst. And it would’ve done no good to explain the days as a lead-up to Epiphany, because, as far as I knew, that was just a brand of guitar. (Yes, I’m aware of my mis-pronunciation. Don’t judge me.)
Flash forward a year and a half to the night before easter, 2008. A gangly man and his wife, having followed their RCIA program through the 12 Days, past not only Epiphany, but the Holy Family, Baptism of Our Lord, into Ordinary Time, and through Lent, and are readying themselves to join the Catholic Church. The path from Assemblies of God to fully embracing Catholicism had been constantly accented by moments of pleasant surprise at having discovered yet another thing I was woefully in the dark about, much like the moment with that soft-spoken priest. So often, I’d found myself wishing I’d had known about so much fullness all of my life. So, I told myself I would never forget the differences between the two sides of the Easter Vigil and would work for unity and understanding as much as I could. I hope this is a small, jovial step in that direction.
If you’re a Catholic, just know that most Pentecostals are done with Christmas for the year, not so much out of ill-intent, but more because many of them–my wife and I included–started all-out, full-on celebrating Christmas on November 1. Remember that they also usually don’t know the insane amount of celebrating and feasting that we do, so why not show them how much fun we truly do have in the Church!
No matter who you are, Merry Christmas from me and this guy!!!