The twelve days of Christmas

AngelThe twelve days of Christmas (Twelve-tide) are the twelve days that separate Christmas day on December 25th from Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6th. Many people think that these are the twelve days before Christmas while in most of the Western Church these are in fact the twelve days from Christmas (not including Christmas) until the beginning of Epiphany. Depending upon the church, 6th of January may mark Christ’s baptism (the Catholic tradition), or it may mark the day when the wise men visited baby Jesus with their gifts.

Origin and traditions

The origin of the Twelve Days is open to discussion and variations abound due to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways of observing this holy day in various cultures. Traditionally, Epiphany is celebrated as the time when the Magi arrived to present gifts to baby Jesus. The twelfth Night was observed on January 5th and often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. In the past, there was a tradition of giving gifts throughout the 12 days of Christmas rather than using them all up on the morning of December 25th. This tradition never really caught on and is all but forgotten now.

Partridge in a pear tree

Interestingly, during the period 1558 to 1829, Catholics in England were forbidden by law to practice their faith either in public or private. The song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ was written as a catechism song to help Catholics remember the basics of their faith. Thus, the song actually held hidden meaning (teachings of the Catholic faith) although it sounded like rhyming nonsense. The ‘true love’ in the song refers to God Himself. The partridge in a pear tree is Christ Jesus, the Son of God.

There are several versions of the song and it is also subject to many parodies (more than for any other Christmas song) as the list of gifts promotes creative replacements.

One Comment about “The twelve days of Christmas”

  1. Debbie Says:

    We are doing a pre-Christmas 12 days of Christmas challenge. Filled with giving to others. It has been very rewarding so far. Please read about it on my blog.
    Merry Christmas

RSS Feed for this entry

Leave a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>