But when are the actual 12 days of Christmas? Here's when they start and end, and the meaning behind them.
When are the 12 days of Christmas and when does it start and end?
The 12 days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a Christian celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.
Twelvetide officially starts on Christmas Day on December 25 and finishes on January 5, inclusively.
During these twelve days, there are both religious and secular celebrations.
It is also known by some as Christmastide.
What does each day of Twelvetide mean?
Each day of Twelvetide has a different meaning:
- The first day of Twelvetide, is Christmas Day and is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
- The second day of Christmas is Boxing Day and is also known as St Stephen’s Day in countries outside of the UK – it is the day of the Christian martyr St Stephen.
- The third day of Christmas celebrates St John the Apostle, who wrote the Book of Revelation.
- The fourth day of Christmas is the Feast Of The Holy Innocents – the day when people remember all of the baby boys who were killed by King Herod in his search to kill the Baby Jesus.
- The fifth day of Christmas is remembering St Thomas Becket – he was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th Century and was killed on December 29, 1170, for challenging the King’s authority over the church.
- The sixth day of Christmas remembers St Egwin of Worcester, who died on December 30, 717, he was known as the protector of orphans and the widowed.
- The seventh day of Christmas (New Year’s Eve) celebrates Pope Sylvester I. In some eastern European countries New Year’s Eve is still known as Silvester.
- The eighth day of Christmas (New Year’s Day) celebrates Mary the Mother of Jesus.
- The ninth day of Christmas honours St Basil the Great and St Gregory Nazianzen – two important fourth century Christians.
- The tenth day of Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – this marks the day Jesus was named in the Jewish Temple.
- The eleventh day of Christmas celebrates the Feast of Saint Simeon Stylites who spent 37 years living on a small platform on top of a pillar in Aleppo.
- The twelfth day of Christmas, January 5, is also known as Epiphany Eve – it’s the day before January 6 which is known as the Epiphany.
And this is what your true love gave to you on the final day…
- Twelve drummers drumming
- Eleven pipers piping
- Ten lords a-leaping
- Nine ladies dancing
- Eight maids a-milking
- Seven swans a-swimming
- Six geese a-laying
- Five gold rings
- Four colly birds
- Three French hens
- Two turtle doves
- …and a partridge in a pear tree
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