We have all heard the song, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree”, but what are the 12 days of Christmas? The Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning on December 25th and ending on January 5th, known as Christmastide and Twelvetide. The Twelfth Day (January 5th) is followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. It is believed the 12 days is the amount of time it took the 3 wise men to travel to Bethlehem for the Epiphany.
Religiously the Twelve Days of Christmas goes like this:
- December 25th: Christmas Day
- December 26th: Boxing Day, a non-religious banking holiday, in Ireland it is known as a Wren Day
- December 27th: Feast of Saint John the Evangelist.
- December 28th: The Feast of the Holy Innocents.
- December 29th: The feast day of Saint Thomas Becket.
- December 30th: The feast of the Holy Family.
- December 31st: The feast of Saint Sylvester.
- January 1st: The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
- January 2nd: Octave day of St. Stephen or the feast day of St. Basil the Great.
- January 3rd: Feast of Saint Genevieve or the most holy name of Jesus.
- January 4th: The octave day of the feast of the Holy Innocents or the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint.
- January 5th: The modern church recognizes this as the feast day of St. John Neumann. The evening of the 5 January is also Twelfth Night.
As far as the song we all enjoy all season long, this is how it is believe to be symbolic to Christ:
My true love gave to me:
- A Partridge in a Pear Tree – Jesus Christ
- Two Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testaments
- Three French Hens – The three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
- Four Calling/Collie Birds – Four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
- Five Golden Rings – First five books of the Old Testament
- Six Geese-a-Laying – Six days of creation before God’s rest on the seventh day
- Seven Swans-a-Swimming – Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
- Eight Maids-a-Milking – Eight Beatitudes
- Nine Ladies Dancing – Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
- Ten Lords-a-Leaping – Ten Commandments
- Eleven Pipers Piping – Eleven faithful disciples
- Twelve Drummers Drumming -Twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed
So there we have it, the 12 Days of Christmas has a very religious meaning for lots of Christians out there, but for some of us out there it is a wonderful holiday song. No matter what the 12 Days of Christmas mean to you and how you celebrate it, Happy Holidays Everyone!