We sing about the gifts of two turtle doves in the popular Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. Did you know those birds carry scriptural significance? More about that in a moment. Let’s first begin our second day of Christmas celebration by honoring the Church’s first martyr.
December 26 marks the feast of Saint Stephen. He holds a unique place among all saints given he was the first martyr of the Church. He is the patron of deacons, bricklayers, headaches, and the country Hungary and is usually pictured in deacon’s vestments, holding a palm branch, the symbol of martyrdom. Sometimes Stephen also has a stone in his left hand to indicate his death by stoning. He can be read about in Chapters 6 & 7 of the Acts of the Apostles.
St. Stephen is often admired as one of the Church’s first “social workers” and has had an influence over some cultural traditions. Many Brits used to collect money throughout the year in little clay boxes, and today, on St. Stephan’s feast day, the boxes were broken and money distributed to the poor. In some homes, a St. Stephen’s box is labeled and set beside the Christmas tree. Family members choose one gift to place in the box and donate to those in need. Let me take a break and go set out a box now!
Scriptural Symbolism of Two Turtle Doves
Sing it with me. On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me … two turtle doves. Turtle doves are mentioned at many points in the Bible and appear in the birth story of Christ. From Luke 2:22-24: “When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
In both Old and New Testaments, turtle doves are a symbol of great love, particularly the sacramental love between a husband and a wife.
So, Merry Second Day of Christmas. How are you celebrating? Just don’t put your turtle doves in your donation box. It might not work out very well.
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