The Twelve New Days of Christmas

No more lords-a-leaping?

Celebration of The Twelve Days of Christmas at a N.D. stave church.

Photo courtesy of Bonnie Fite
Bonnie Johnson Fite and Ellen Dockery stand in front of a stave church in Minot, N.D. What better place could there be for a Julebarnkor performance?

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

Bonnie Fite has always liked the traditional carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” but she decided to write a new version with a focus on the biblical story of the first Christmas.

Her lavishly illustrated children’s book was published by Profound Promises in 2001. A professional CD was added in 2002, making it a gift set.

Each page follows the same format. An introduction to a Biblical character related to the Christmas story begins each day. The character on the first day is Baby Jesus, on the second day Two Earthly Parents (Mary and Joseph), on the third day Three Wise Men, and so on. Then a relevant Biblical verse is given, followed by a short lesson (an Advent devotional). In conclusion, children are asked two thought-provoking questions.

Fite, a Norwegian American, decided to have her new version of the song translated into Norwegian. She enlisted the help of Norwegian Sissel Bakken, who first had to find equivalent words in Norwegian with the same number of syllables as the English and then apply them to the music. She said it was quite a challenge!

After the success of her book, Fite took an additional step. She wrote a bilingual musical based on the book, with some carols in English and others in Norwegian. She then formed a Christmas children’s choir (Julebarnekor) to perform this musical, which debuted at the annual Norwegian Holiday Festival in Fairfax, Va., on Dec. 3, 2016.

This newly formed choir had two other engagements during the 2016 holidays. They performed in President’s Park South on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. The choir also performed at the Norwegian church service at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Bethesda, Md.

Fite had the privilege of working in the Author’s Corner at Høstfest 2017 in Minot, N.D. Her favorite customer was 12-year-old Gunnar. He wanted to buy the book and she told him to go ask his mother. He stood there thinking long and hard. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a rolled-up $20 bill. He placed it on the counter and asked, “Is this enough to buy a book?” She knew it was his spending money for the day to buy snacks and treats. Although the book cost $22, she was so honored that he chose to buy her book that she said, “For you, Gunnar, of course it will buy a book.” After she autographed it, he tucked it under his arm and walked away, wearing a proud smile.

After Høstfest, she stopped to see the replica of the magnificent Gol Stave Church. As she sat in the sanctuary listening to someone give the history of the church, she noticed the spectacular acoustics. Instantly, she envisioned a children’s choir standing on the stage performing the song in Norwegian. Maybe, just maybe, it will happen next year!

The giftset of The Twelve New Days of Christmas is available by calling (703) 449-7751.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 15, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784.4617.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.