Around November — who am I kidding, by Halloween — the Christmas frenzy begins! Lights, decorations, Santas and music abound. Excitement begins to build for the magnificent finale of Christmas morning and the magical arrival of Santa Claus down the chimney to lay out all of our wishes in the form of gifts under the tree. And then, the New Year comes, and we pack up the décor and begin anew, lamenting the over-indulgences of the season; and so ends the Christmas season, rather abruptly.
Although this is the current trend, it is not quite “right.”
The 12 Days of Christmas do not start now … with the incessant chanting of “the 12 Days of Christmas” with the French hens, drummers and lords a-leaping with the partridge in the pear tree. The traditional Christmas celebration is aligned to the Christian holiday that begins with the season of Advent. The first day of Christmas is, of course, Dec. 25, Christmas Day, when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
The days in between celebrate and acknowledge various saints and concepts, like Saint Stephen, the first martyr, or Saint John, the evangelist. The fourth day honors the memory of Holy Innocents in memory of the little boys slaughtered by King Herod when seeking the newborn Jesus. Some additional highlights include the sixth day, honoring the Holy Family, and the eighth day, honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. And as cultures and traditions continue to blend, this original English holiday honors the American-born Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, or Mother Seton, on the eleventh day.
The real 12 Days culminate on Jan. 6, with the feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, the day in which Christ’s divinity was revealed to the world via the Three Wise Men. Epiphany, The Feast of The Three Kings, is mainly celebrated by Catholics and has tremendous import to Latinos and Hispanics, stature equivalent to Christmas.
In most Latin-American and Caribbean countries, Jan. 6 is when children receive their presents, delivered by the Three Kings. In Mexico, the holiday is celebrated with a special cake called “Rosca de Reyes,” where a figurine of baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake — the person who discovers the figurine becomes the godparent of Jesus for the year. Children in Puerto Rico place cut grass in a box under the bed for the camels with hopes that the Three Magi or Kings gift them with presents for being good. After a morning filled with joy and laughter, families gather for a holiday meal (savory lechon and coquito) and festivities.
In reality, the 12 Days of Christmas actually extends the holiday season into January. At the risk of inciting a capitalism vs. Christianity debate, this technically extends the shopping season, since many Latinos continue shopping and celebrating until Three Kings Days.
As a retailer, restaurateur, baker, etc., consider modifying your holiday campaigns and messages to attract Latino customers. Leverage your social media platforms to woo and engage Latino shoppers during the holiday season. Invest in Facebook boosts and ads with profiles that target language preferences and are segmented for Hispanic-dense geographies.
And just as important, be considerate of the workload and schedules of your team members to allow them to celebrate the season in a fashion meaningful to them. Observing these holidays, both Los Reyes Magos and Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), in light of the growing Hispanic population, creates an environment of inclusion. This is more than just changing the holiday signage on your door; it’s about acknowledging the cultural differences that contribute to the richness of our country.
Although we certainly don’t expect you to close the office or declare a national holiday, a day off from work in observance of Noche Buena or Los Reyes Mago would be very appreciated. Consider offering flexible holiday options or a floating holiday. Or seek input from your employees on ways to celebrate and acknowledge their culture, to ensure people feel included. Of course, this practice applies to all people, not just Hispanics.
My recommendation for the holidays? Leverage the entire season, including the “newly found” Twelve Days. Be mindful and considerate, allow your team time to wrap up year-end work and then encourage true rest, so they can enjoy the holidays with their loved ones.
Amigos, time is short, focus on what matters — friends, family, health and joy. Feliz Navidad and much prosperity to you and yours in the new year!
Veronica Cool is founder of Cool & Associates LLC, a business management firm specializing in financial wellness and diverse segment marketing. Her column appears each month in The Daily Record and online. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @verocool.