The 12 days

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When I started this calendar, I had originally thought to perhaps do the Twelve Days of Christmas (a more modest project given the time of the year!)  I was interested to find out that I have blissfully lived in ignorance my whole life thinking that the afore mentioned ’12 days’ either ran before Christmas into New Year or was the 12 days prior to Christmas Day, but no…….it isn’t, in fact traditionally, the Twelve Days of Christmas are from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th but the following day is considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th).  (I have included a whole lot longer explanation if you are interested to read it, in the continuation………..but for now, on with the page)   SO, with that fallacy destroyed, I simply decided to include which ever of the 12 days I felt artistically inspired about…….& politely ignore those I didn’t………Maids milking & Drummers drumming aren’t doing it for me right now………..but that may change as the days go on!

The origin of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures.  In the Western church, Epiphany is usually celebrated as the time the Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Traditionally there were three Magi, probably from the fact of three gifts, even though the biblical narrative never says how many Magi came.  In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings.  Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Since Eastern Orthodox traditions use a different religious calendar, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th.

By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days of Christmas with (sometimes pagan) festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with driving away evil spirits for the start of the new year.

The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day.  Twelfth Night often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. French and English celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King’s Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine. In some cultures, the King’s Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany.

The popular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is usually seen as simply a nonsense song for children. However, some have suggested that it is a song of Christian instruction dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith.  They contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the "days" represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.

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