TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
While many people automatically think of the song, the Twelve Days of Christmas celebrates the days after Christ’s birth on December 25th. The twelfth day lands on January 5th and this is the date the magi, or the three kings, were believed to arrive in Bethlehem.
The Twelve Days of Christmas have been celebrated in Europe since before the Middle Ages. Each day celebrates a feast day for a saint.
The Twelve Days are as follows:
- 1st Day: the birth of Christ
- 2nd Day: St. Stephen – the first Christian martyr
- 3rd Day: St. John the Apostle – one of Jesus’s disciples
- 4th Day: The Feast of the Holy of Innocents – the baby boys King Herod killed when trying to find and kill baby Jesus
- 5th Day: St. Thomas Becket – Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century murdered for challenging the King’s authority over the Church
- 6th Day: St. Egwin of Worcester – A Benedictine monk
- 7th Day: Pope Sylvester I – one of the earliest Popes
- 8th Day: Mary, the Mother of Jesus
- 9th Day: St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen – two 4th century Christians
- 10th Day: Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – celebrates the naming of Jesus of in the Jewish Temple
- 11th Day: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint
- 12th Day: St. John Neumann who was the first Bishop in America
Traditionally, celebrations took place each day. However, the biggest celebration was held on the Twelfth night. This night is also known as Epiphany Eve. The last night is also when most people take down their Christmas decorations.
HOW TO OBSERVE #TWELVEDAYSOFCHRISTMAS
The Twelve Days of Christmas is a predominantly Catholic celebration. However, Christians of every denomination can celebrate these 12 important days. Most Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. To participate in the remaining 11 days:
- Instead of opening every gift on Christmas day, open one on each of the 12 days instead
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or give to someone in need
- Celebrate the season with someone who doesn’t have family nearby
- Read the entire Gospel of Luke, which gives a Biblical account of the birth of Christ
- Since you’re already humming the famous Christmas carol, go ahead and start singing the Twelve Days of Christmas
- Share this festive time on social media with #TwelveDaysOfChristmas
TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS HISTORY
The Twelve Days of Christmas were first proclaimed by the Catholic Church during the Council of Tours in 567. It was to be a sacred and festive season. During the Middle Ages in England, the Twelve Days of Christmas were a time of continuous feasting and merrymaking. The early colonists to North America celebrated their own version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Today, many denominations choose to only celebrate the first and last of the twelve days. Other days in between that are commonly celebrated include Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.