Yom is the Hebrew word traditionally rendered as day in translations of the Bible. One curiosity of theological history is that about the same time that Alfred Loisy and George Tyrrell were getting their marching orders from Pope Pius X, the Pontifical Biblical Commission was approving a wider interpretation of the meaning of yom so that it could be understood as a period of time, rather than a solar day. That wouldn't have made much of a difference to the modernists since Loisy and Tyrrell had problems other than those posed by biblical criticism (and rather more significant critical questions than those raised by the meaning of yom).
Still, on the eve of what is traditionally the Feast of the Epiphany I cannot help wondering whether the bishops of England and Wales, who ordered the Epiphany to be celebrated last Sunday, might not find some mileage in speaking of the 'Twelve Yoms of Christmas' rather than the Twelve Days. After all, if yom refers to an indeterminate period, you can slice your yom wherever you want to. Twelve yoms could be anything from twelve hours to twelve periods of twenty-two hours, and none of us would be any the wiser.
Of course it is another matter what such a reorganisation of time might do to the gifts traditionally associated with each of the twelve yoms of Christmas. Twelve lords a-leaping can most certainly be organised in a period of twenty-four hours - especially if you tell them it's happy hour in the bar - but anything shorter than that might cause problems. The milking of cows also takes time, as does the simultaneous counting and marshalling of all kinds of fowl from swans to partridges and turtle doves. Is a yom long enough, I ask myself.
It all seems a far cry from a proper celebration which takes time after all. Naively perhaps, I'm always amazed at the indecent haste with which Christmas is forgotten every year. Just who wouldn't want twelve days of joy rather than just the one? Well, that's the rub. It depends on your joy. If your joy is fitted to the coming of the Son of God, then there's every chance you'll be celebrating for twelve days and then some. If your joy is fitted to something less marvellous, a shorter period might be in order.
I'm making no implications about the joy among the bishops of England and Wales whose yoms might in private last longer than twenty-four hours. But I wonder what is really achieved by moving big feasts like this to the Sunday, other than the regular elision of the twelve days to twelve yoms and the homogenisation of the temporal cycle.
Am I flogging a dead horse? Well, I probably am. But anything's better than trying to count out leaping lords and milking maids before the yoms run out.
A happy Epiphany one and all.