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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Updated on August 20, 2014

Special Season of Joy

People all over the world celebrate Christmas. A major way people celebrate is by decorating their homes. This lens focuses on lights and decorations on the outside of homes in southern Arizona.

In the western world, people usually celebrate Christmas on the 24th or 25th of December. In the east, they usually celebrate on January 6. Hence, the twelve days of Christmas. Originally, the church developed what is known as the church year. This is based on an Old Testament practice of scheduling certain Torah readings for each sabbath, according to a schedule for the year. The church year actually begins in Advent, which is an observance of the expectation of the coming of Jesus. The church year begins between November 27 and December 3, depending on which day the Sunday four weeks before falls. The church year has a schedule of readings from the Gospels, the Epistles, and sometimes the Old Testament, assigned to each Sunday of the church year, beginning with Advent, and running until Pentecost. After that is Trinity Sunday, and then for the summer, the first Sunday after Trinity, second Sunday after Trinity, and so forth, until the church year again begins with Advent. Some people make a big fuss over the fact that December 25 is close to the winter solstice, which falls on December 21. Whether or not the church intentionally sought to redeem the solstice celebrations seems to be a point of contention and debate. It doesn't matter. The important thing is that it is a Christian observance of a specific event in the life of Christ, and that it is celebrated in a Christian way.

I hoped to share this lens earlier, but it is still timely, and in any case, we should celebrate Christmas year round.

The scene is of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and visitors, at the manger where He was laid when He was born. This is part of a display which follows a Mexican custom I will describe below.

All photos are mine.

Side note: the Google ads are not necessarily appropriate for this lens. (Mormons have a different Jesus). For this reason, please know that I do not endorse or select the ads. Thank you.

What is Christmas?

The true meaning and other ideas

Christmas is the day the human race has chosen, to celebrate the birth of Jesus, each year. Jesus, the second Person of the Godhead, took on human flesh, and was born to a human woman. He grew up, lived a perfect life in our stead, and then died for our sins on the cross. After that, He rose from the dead. Those who accept His free gift of salvation will also rise from the dead, and join Him in heaven one day.

Other meanings have been attached to Christmas. In particular, because Jesus was a gift to the human race, people have practiced gift-giving in commemoration. In addition, some Christians in some countries have also adopted various forms of the legend of St. Nicholas, a Catholic bishop who gave gifts to the needy in his area. In the United States, this has evolved into the legend of Santa Claus, who allegedly brings good children gifts. I personally never felt comfortable with this aspect simply because it requires misrepresenting facts to children, and I want children to trust me to tell them only the truth. That said, I would rather see someone paying attention to Christmas, even in what I feel are unproductive ways, than not to observe it at all.

With all that being said, I will soon move on to the main topic of this Lens, which is the decorations people put up outdoors for Christmas. This is a collection of photos I have made of these displays.

Advent

What we celebrate

Luke 1

26. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

28. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

The Birth of Jesus

Luke 2

1. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Gentile's Christmas, Epiphany

The Wise Men visit the baby born also for the Gentiles

Matthew 2

1. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6. And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

La Posada

The Search

This is a Mexican tradition that is also observed in southern Arizona. The search starts with Mary and Joseph's search for shelter, and continues with the search of the shepherds and Wise Men for the new baby king. In this illustration, you can see how a home is decorated in keeping with this nine day tradition. In order to help people find their way, luminaria are set up along paths and driveways, and sometimes along the edges of the roof of the house. They help light the way. Luminaria are traditionally made by putting sand in the bottom of a paper bag, and placing a lit candle in the center, into the sand to hold it upright. The paper bag keeps the breezes from blowing out the candles. Nowadays, some people use commercial plastic which resembles paper bags, with incandescent bulbs instead of candles. They can come in brown, red, or green. At the end of the path, people place a creche.

Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Luminaria light the way.Closeup of luminaria.The Creche, showing the family, shepherds, and wise men.
Luminaria light the way.
Luminaria light the way.
Closeup of luminaria.
Closeup of luminaria.
The Creche, showing the family, shepherds, and wise men.
The Creche, showing the family, shepherds, and wise men.

Pictures from the neighborhood

These are photos which I got just driving around at night, looking for interesting decorations.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Some people run their Christmas lights year round. I don't remember what time of year I took this photo. It was behind the grocery store where I sometimes shop.For the next few photos, I had some fun with funky filters on my camera. This was on my street, and they always had a gazillion lights. They must have sold the house. I haven't seen this for a couple of years.A home. I don't remember where.A business display. Faceted filter.Another business display.Just a small, unpretentious display.The street to a business park. Lots of people wrap tree trunks and branches by businesses.The old-fashioned street lamps add to this photo.Even the cactus knows it's Christmas! This is called Christmas cactus because it bears red fruit in December.Another year, a display in front of a house, not quite dark.
Some people run their Christmas lights year round. I don't remember what time of year I took this photo. It was behind the grocery store where I sometimes shop.
Some people run their Christmas lights year round. I don't remember what time of year I took this photo. It was behind the grocery store where I sometimes shop.
For the next few photos, I had some fun with funky filters on my camera. This was on my street, and they always had a gazillion lights. They must have sold the house. I haven't seen this for a couple of years.
For the next few photos, I had some fun with funky filters on my camera. This was on my street, and they always had a gazillion lights. They must have sold the house. I haven't seen this for a couple of years.
A home. I don't remember where.
A home. I don't remember where.
A business display. Faceted filter.
A business display. Faceted filter.
Another business display.
Another business display.
Just a small, unpretentious display.
Just a small, unpretentious display.
The street to a business park. Lots of people wrap tree trunks and branches by businesses.
The street to a business park. Lots of people wrap tree trunks and branches by businesses.
The old-fashioned street lamps add to this photo.
The old-fashioned street lamps add to this photo.
Even the cactus knows it's Christmas! This is called Christmas cactus because it bears red fruit in December.
Even the cactus knows it's Christmas! This is called Christmas cactus because it bears red fruit in December.
Another year, a display in front of a house, not quite dark.
Another year, a display in front of a house, not quite dark.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lots of lights and some luminaria. Same house as last time.A third view of that house.And another view.A friend of ours, who is a radio ham, has a lot of antennas on top of his house. Every year he decorates them with Christmas lights.Another house.A house a few blocks from that one.The previous house.And again.This house was huge, and had a very large yard in front; I had to use a telephoto lens to get this picture.These funky animals showed up in some places.
Lots of lights and some luminaria. Same house as last time.
Lots of lights and some luminaria. Same house as last time.
A third view of that house.
A third view of that house.
And another view.
And another view.
A friend of ours, who is a radio ham, has a lot of antennas on top of his house. Every year he decorates them with Christmas lights.
A friend of ours, who is a radio ham, has a lot of antennas on top of his house. Every year he decorates them with Christmas lights.
Another house.
Another house.
A house a few blocks from that one.
A house a few blocks from that one.
The previous house.
The previous house.
And again.
And again.
This house was huge, and had a very large yard in front; I had to use a telephoto lens to get this picture.
This house was huge, and had a very large yard in front; I had to use a telephoto lens to get this picture.
These funky animals showed up in some places.
These funky animals showed up in some places.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wrapped cactus.Catching the same cactus with a street light in the foreground gave an interesting effect.Wrapped trees.One of the wrapped trees.This house had a string of lights along the top of the wall. They changed colors, causing the colors to rotate down the string. I tried to figure out how it was done, but I couldn't. This one was in front of a very interesting surface.As you can see, the lights were faceted.Another house in the neighborhood.Some people line their roof line and trees with an interesting color.
Wrapped cactus.
Wrapped cactus.
Catching the same cactus with a street light in the foreground gave an interesting effect.
Catching the same cactus with a street light in the foreground gave an interesting effect.
Wrapped trees.
Wrapped trees.
One of the wrapped trees.
One of the wrapped trees.
This house had a string of lights along the top of the wall. They changed colors, causing the colors to rotate down the string. I tried to figure out how it was done, but I couldn't. This one was in front of a very interesting surface.
This house had a string of lights along the top of the wall. They changed colors, causing the colors to rotate down the string. I tried to figure out how it was done, but I couldn't. This one was in front of a very interesting surface.
As you can see, the lights were faceted.
As you can see, the lights were faceted.
Another house in the neighborhood.
Another house in the neighborhood.
Some people line their roof line and trees with an interesting color.
Some people line their roof line and trees with an interesting color.

Winterhaven

Tucson, Arizona

Winterhaven is a neighborhood in the middle of Tucson, Arizona. It is bounded by Tucson Blvd, Country Club, Ft. Lowell, and Prince Road. Because of the name of the community, they developed the custom of having lavish Christmas displays for a couple of weeks at Christmastime. Although it appears not to be a requirement, it is expected that each household will put up outside decorations. In the few years I have gone to see the displays, I have noticed they become more elaborate as time passes. Displays are judged, and prizes are awarded.

The following photo galleries are almost entirely of displays for the year 2012. I tried to select photos only of original displays that were designed and built by the people in the homes, not something they bought commercially. I am sure there are a few commercial displays that slipped in, but for the most part, they are originals.

Most of the evenings during the period of time the displays are run, only foot traffic is permitted. Only cars belonging to residents are allowed in. Traffic is directed on Ft. Lowell, and there is a parking lot across the street. I went right after sunset, and parked off Prince. I think I covered all the streets. Some of the displays were mind-blowing, to say the least! They ranged from celebrations of the birth of Jesus, through secular topics, and some silly or Grinchy ones. A couple were in celebration of Chanukah instead, including one apparently commercial large plastic balloon of a bear holding a dreidel. On one of the major intersections, there was a large machine blowing hundreds of soap bubbles. A few people were serving refreshments to the people walking through. The event appears to have garnered some significant sponsorship as well, with a local casino and various businesses chipping in money.

The photographs are the Best of Winterhaven!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
From several years ago, a simple display involving just one spotlight, casting a shadow from the agave in front.Green aliens, singing Christmas carols. From several years ago. Got Best Artist Award.The Grinch. Everything beyond this point is from 2012.Lots and lots of lights.This home had displays all across the front yard. They won Best Door.Best Door.People sometimes like to wrap tree trunks and branches, and saguaro cactus, with lights.Charlie Brown Christmas, with the real message.A funky display. I think he got an award, but I don't remember what. He had a storefront with a name combining a restaurant name with the word "Tires".Cowboy and cowgirl in the barn with the hay. Didn't see a baby.
From several years ago, a simple display involving just one spotlight, casting a shadow from the agave in front.
From several years ago, a simple display involving just one spotlight, casting a shadow from the agave in front.
Green aliens, singing Christmas carols. From several years ago. Got Best Artist Award.
Green aliens, singing Christmas carols. From several years ago. Got Best Artist Award.
The Grinch. Everything beyond this point is from 2012.
The Grinch. Everything beyond this point is from 2012.
Lots and lots of lights.
Lots and lots of lights.
This home had displays all across the front yard. They won Best Door.
This home had displays all across the front yard. They won Best Door.
Best Door.
Best Door.
People sometimes like to wrap tree trunks and branches, and saguaro cactus, with lights.
People sometimes like to wrap tree trunks and branches, and saguaro cactus, with lights.
Charlie Brown Christmas, with the real message.
Charlie Brown Christmas, with the real message.
A funky display. I think he got an award, but I don't remember what. He had a storefront with a name combining a restaurant name with the word "Tires".
A funky display. I think he got an award, but I don't remember what. He had a storefront with a name combining a restaurant name with the word "Tires".
Cowboy and cowgirl in the barn with the hay. Didn't see a baby.
Cowboy and cowgirl in the barn with the hay. Didn't see a baby.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Toy window in front of a house.This display had several mannequins covered with beads. I don't know the significance of that.Some of the mannequins were in this metal framework, together with this sign.Fancy, glittery presents.The angel's wings were covered with colorful butterflies.Characters from Walt Disney movies.More lights.Mary and Baby Jesus.I don't know if he was serious or just being silly.Fancy stars along tree trunks.
Toy window in front of a house.
Toy window in front of a house.
This display had several mannequins covered with beads. I don't know the significance of that.
This display had several mannequins covered with beads. I don't know the significance of that.
Some of the mannequins were in this metal framework, together with this sign.
Some of the mannequins were in this metal framework, together with this sign.
Fancy, glittery presents.
Fancy, glittery presents.
The angel's wings were covered with colorful butterflies.
The angel's wings were covered with colorful butterflies.
Characters from Walt Disney movies.
Characters from Walt Disney movies.
More lights.
More lights.
Mary and Baby Jesus.
Mary and Baby Jesus.
I don't know if he was serious or just being silly.
I don't know if he was serious or just being silly.
Fancy stars along tree trunks.
Fancy stars along tree trunks.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
There were maybe 100 penguins in the yard, each one different from all the others. This is how they explained it. They said 10 were missing. I think I found them all.Some of the penguins.Your guess is as good as mine."Dog shaming". Things like having bitten Santa. This was one of the dogs. I'm pretty sure this is commercial, but not positive.The front door was wrapped in Christmas paper.Truly Nolan is a local extermination company. They have these vintage autos, painted yellow with red letters. They also have VW bugs with ears and a tail, to look like a mouse. In this display, reindeer are pulling the auto.Nativity scene in lights.This display earned Best Rooftop.More Best Rooftop. The soldiers move their arms.Several trolleys went through the area. This one was from Tombstone.
There were maybe 100 penguins in the yard, each one different from all the others. This is how they explained it. They said 10 were missing. I think I found them all.
There were maybe 100 penguins in the yard, each one different from all the others. This is how they explained it. They said 10 were missing. I think I found them all.
Some of the penguins.
Some of the penguins.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Your guess is as good as mine.
"Dog shaming". Things like having bitten Santa. This was one of the dogs. I'm pretty sure this is commercial, but not positive.
"Dog shaming". Things like having bitten Santa. This was one of the dogs. I'm pretty sure this is commercial, but not positive.
The front door was wrapped in Christmas paper.
The front door was wrapped in Christmas paper.
Truly Nolan is a local extermination company. They have these vintage autos, painted yellow with red letters. They also have VW bugs with ears and a tail, to look like a mouse. In this display, reindeer are pulling the auto.
Truly Nolan is a local extermination company. They have these vintage autos, painted yellow with red letters. They also have VW bugs with ears and a tail, to look like a mouse. In this display, reindeer are pulling the auto.
Nativity scene in lights.
Nativity scene in lights.
This display earned Best Rooftop.
This display earned Best Rooftop.
More Best Rooftop. The soldiers move their arms.
More Best Rooftop. The soldiers move their arms.
Several trolleys went through the area. This one was from Tombstone.
Several trolleys went through the area. This one was from Tombstone.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Menorah, in celebration of Chanukah, with signs. Notice he has two of the lost penguins.Various famous paintings by southwestern artist Ted DeGrazia. This won Best Southwest. Notice the luminaria.Closer view of some paintings.Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the foreground, Bethlehem in the background.Funky Christmas tree next to the bubble blowing machine.Elvis. They were playing his Christmas song softly over speakers.More lighted trees.Painting, Mexican style.Creche.One of the hayrides going through the neighborhood.
Menorah, in celebration of Chanukah, with signs. Notice he has two of the lost penguins.
Menorah, in celebration of Chanukah, with signs. Notice he has two of the lost penguins.
Various famous paintings by southwestern artist Ted DeGrazia. This won Best Southwest. Notice the luminaria.
Various famous paintings by southwestern artist Ted DeGrazia. This won Best Southwest. Notice the luminaria.
Closer view of some paintings.
Closer view of some paintings.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the foreground, Bethlehem in the background.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the foreground, Bethlehem in the background.
Funky Christmas tree next to the bubble blowing machine.
Funky Christmas tree next to the bubble blowing machine.
Elvis. They were playing his Christmas song softly over speakers.
Elvis. They were playing his Christmas song softly over speakers.
More lighted trees.
More lighted trees.
Painting, Mexican style.
Painting, Mexican style.
Creche.
Creche.
One of the hayrides going through the neighborhood.
One of the hayrides going through the neighborhood.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Someone put lights all over their cactus. This actually serves two purposes. People can run the lights at night on freezing nights to protect the cactus from freezing.These glass figurines were easier to see than photograph. I had to use a telephoto lens for starters. Creche facing Prince Road.Some people decorate the fireplugs.These decorations were called "Winterhaven Zoo". Most of the animals were lit, but this one moved its head up and down. This won "Best Special Effects".
Someone put lights all over their cactus. This actually serves two purposes. People can run the lights at night on freezing nights to protect the cactus from freezing.
Someone put lights all over their cactus. This actually serves two purposes. People can run the lights at night on freezing nights to protect the cactus from freezing.
These glass figurines were easier to see than photograph. I had to use a telephoto lens for starters. Creche facing Prince Road.
These glass figurines were easier to see than photograph. I had to use a telephoto lens for starters. Creche facing Prince Road.
Some people decorate the fireplugs.
Some people decorate the fireplugs.
These decorations were called "Winterhaven Zoo". Most of the animals were lit, but this one moved its head up and down. This won "Best Special Effects".
These decorations were called "Winterhaven Zoo". Most of the animals were lit, but this one moved its head up and down. This won "Best Special Effects".

Business Park with Small Shops - not in Winterhaven

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Main street lined with wrapped trees.Another view of the main street, with Christmas cone.Yet another view of the main street.Display in shop window.Display in shop window.Where else would you find a flower garden blooming outside in winter, but southern Arizona?Not in that park, but a couple of miles away. Would you believe I took this photo on March 1?
Main street lined with wrapped trees.
Main street lined with wrapped trees.
Another view of the main street, with Christmas cone.
Another view of the main street, with Christmas cone.
Yet another view of the main street.
Yet another view of the main street.
Display in shop window.
Display in shop window.
Display in shop window.
Display in shop window.
Where else would you find a flower garden blooming outside in winter, but southern Arizona?
Where else would you find a flower garden blooming outside in winter, but southern Arizona?
Not in that park, but a couple of miles away. Would you believe I took this photo on March 1?
Not in that park, but a couple of miles away. Would you believe I took this photo on March 1?

Christmas in May?

This scintillating tree was changing color. Found on my street on May 21, 2013. Some people never stop celebrating Christmas.

Parting Thoughts

Here's hoping you had a wonderful, peaceful, joyous Christmas, with many precious memories for the future.

Do you celebrate Christmas?

How do you celebrate Christmas, or do you celebrate something else?

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Thoughts about Christmas - All reasoned comments welcome.

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    • Pat Goltz profile image
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      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      @lesliesinclair: Children will seek out the deeper meaning of Christmas when they acknowledge their sin-sick heart. Thank you.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      Back in my child raising days we celebrated the religious component of Christmas, with a smattering of consumerism on the side, gifts for family. i often wonder how children who have only know the brash consumerism of the holiday can ever delve deep below that.