“On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree.”
We all know the song. It’s quite long. Our eyes usually glaze over before it wraps up with the “partridge in a pear tree.”
What are the “Twelve Days of Christmas” anyway? Where are they on the calendar?
The Twelve Days are a very old celebration of Christmas. They are far older than the song cited above, which was first written in Elizabethan England. The Twelve days cover the gap between Christmas Day and Epiphany.
Many people think that the “Twelve Days of Christmas” are the days leading up to Christmas, with Christmas being the twelfth day and grand finale. Christmas, however, is the beginning of the twelve day celebration, which continues through the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.
In the Liturgy of the Hours, each of these days has the prayers and readings of Christmas Day. That means that each of the Twelve Days are treated as Christmas Day itself. This makes a lot of sense—after all, we are celebrating God born in the flesh. We couldn’t possibly fit all our wonder and jubilance into just one day!
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