Christmas: Twelve Days
by Barbara Laufersweiler
of Faith at Home
We pretty much know the verses of the
Christmas carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," right? Drummers
drumming, maids a-milking, five gold rings, and that partridge, all being
given by someone's true love. Did you also know that the 12 days "of
Christmas" are the days of the church season of Christmas, starting
with Christmas Day itself? True!Suggestions for this
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For those who follow the church liturgical year, Christmas Day, or the
Feast of the Nativity of Jesus, is the first day of the Christmas season.
The 12th and final day is January 5, and the season of Epiphany begins the
following day. Some centuries ago those 12 days included lots of
mid-winter celebration (sound familiar?).
The Christian church set various holy days on these days of Christmas to
highlight the beginning of Christianity. For instance, December 26 is St.
Stephen's Day, commemorating Stephen, the first disciple of Jesus to
become a Christian martyr, when he was killed by being stoned to death.
December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, to remember the children
under the age of two that Herod had ordered killed in an attempt to end
the life of the child (Jesus) he'd heard called the King of the Jews.
The story is told that the song "The 12 Days of Christmas" is a
catechism in code for persecuted Catholics from an anti-Catholic time in
England, with each day's gifts representing an element of Christianity.
This is a legend, not true but definitely fun to think about. In reality,
the song is a remnant of the many counting songs common centuries ago in
The 12 days of Christmas are, as they have been for centuries, a time to
remember the beginnings of Christianity, starting with the birth of Jesus
Barbara Laufersweiler is an at-home mom, an Episcopalian, and the creator
of Faith at Home, http://www.faith-at-home.com,
a Web site offering help to parents as they explore and enjoy faith with
their children. Copyright © 2001 Barbara K. Laufersweiler. All rights
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