Christmas Costume and Tradition

The 12 days of Christmas : Gifts Ideas, Meaning, Date, Images

“On the First day of Christmas my true love sent to me a Partridge in a Pear Tree”

This phrase from the popular Christmas carol might be the first thing that strikes you, when we refer to “The 12 days of Christmas”. It has been doing the rounds in the internet recently. Some say that the song contains hidden codes for eg. a partridge in a pear tree is supposed to refer to Jesus. Some others would say that the meaning has been confused with another song,

What are they that are but one? 

We have one God alone

In heaven above sits on His throne.”                                                                                                                        

The whole theory behind the song may or may not be true, but there is no significant historical evidence in favor of the coded message and it surely does not explain the phrase “The 12 days of Christmas”.

Today, the beginning of the festivities may commence from the halloween and Christmas decorations might be hitting the streets and shopping malls much before the day. But originally the festivities begun from the Christmas Eve and the twelve days of Christmas referred to the 12 days of celebrations which started from the Christmas day and continued for the next eleven days, ending with the Epiphany- the feast of the kings on the twelfth night. The three wise men Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar travelled for 12 days following a star across the desert to finally reach Bethlehem on the twelfth day for the Epiphany or the revelation of Christ as the Savior to the world.

There are differences on the date on which Christmas is celebrated and subsequently the 12 days of Christmas, depending on the customs of the church that one belongs to. While in Eastern Christianity, the Birth and baptism of Christ are celebrated on the same day, the concept of the 12 days doesn’t exist. Western Christianity and Eastern Orthodoxy follow the same tradition and celebrate twelve great feasts. For people believing in them the day of Christmas is the 25th day of December and Epiphany is on the 6th of January while the 12 days refer to the days from 25th December to 5th January. The Greek Orthodox Church still use a different religious calendar wherein Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January followed by the twelve days and finally ending with the Epiphany on the 19th of January. The celebrations have religious as well as secular traditions. The feast on each day is celebrated after a saint.

1st Day of Christmas:  Also known as Christmas this day is celebrated as the Nativity of the Lord or the Birth of Christ.

Gifts for 1st day of Christmas

2nd Day of Christmas: Also known as Saint Stephen’s Day or the Feast of St. Stephen, this day commemorates the first martyr of the New Covenant, Saint Stephen. As described in the carol “Good King Wenceslas”, on this day the leftovers are given to the poor. Saint Stephen was one of the first deacons who started the act of showing generosity to the needy. In Australia, Canada and United Kingdom, this day is celebrated as the Boxing Day which is primarily a shopping holiday. Boxing Day received its name from the fact that in old days the masters used to give their servants a box containing gifts, bonuses and some leftovers on this day so that they could pack up and were allowed to visit their families on the next day. It is called the Wren Day in Ireland, where people dress in old clothes and straw hats and travel from door to door carrying a mock-up wren.

Gifts for 2nd day of Christmas

3rd Day of Christmas: St.John is the only saint who is not a martyr in this list. He was an Apostle and Evangelist. He is said to have witnessed incarnation through his words. Feast of St.John is celebrated on this day.

Gifts for 3rd day of Christmas

4th Day of Christmas: Herod was considered as the king of Jews. A Nebatean by birth and appointed by the Romans, Herod hated the Jews and the Jews hated him. So when the three wise men referred to Jesus as the “King of Jews” he became scared. Outwitted by the Magi, he started to kill every baby boy under the age of two in Bethlehem and its vicinity, in search of Jesus. In remembrance of the innumerable babies who had been sacrificed this day is celebrated as the Feast of Holy Innocents.

Gifts for 4th day of Christmas

5th Day of Christmas: An Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th Century, St. Thomas Becket was murdered for challenging the King’s authority over the Church. The feast of St. Thomas Becket is to show respect to this martyr.

Gifts for 5th day of Christmas

6th Day of Christmas: Celebrated as the feast of Saint Egwin of Worcester.

Gifts for 6th day of Christmas

7th Day of Christmas: Known as the Feast of Pope St. Sylvester I, this day is celebrated as the New years’ Eve. In some countries it is just called “Silvester”. A traditional day for games and sports in the U.K., the New Year’s Eve is celebrated amidst a lot of competitions taking place all around.

Gifts for 7th day of Christmas

8th Day of Christmas: Known as the Solemnity of Mary or the feast of Mother Mary, the world celebrates this day as the New Year Day. The Roman Catholics celebrate it as the World Peace Day. The Roman Catholics also celebrate this day as the feast of Circumcision of Christ as it is believed that Jesus Christ was circumcised on the 8th Day.

Gifts for 8th day of Christmas

9th Day of Christmas: The first day outside the octave, this day is celebrated to commemorate the saints Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus.

Gifts for 9th day of Christmas

10th Day of Christmas: On this day Jesus was named and is celebrated in memory of the Holy Name of Jesus. According to the Gospel (Luke 2:21), “at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

Gifts for 10th day of Christmas

11th Day of Christmas: Previously celebrated in memory of Saint Simon Stylites, who lived on a small platform on the top of a pillar for 37 years, it is dedicated to the first American saint and is marked as the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton today.

Gifts for 11th day of Christmas

12th Day of Christmas: Also known as the Epiphany Eve, this day commemorates the first Bishop in America, St. John Neumann.

Gifts for 12th day of Christmas

The Christmas celebrations come to an end with the grand finale on the twelfth night followed by the Epiphany. The Epiphany also marks the end of winter and the sun would be visible once again with the advent of spring. Our religious as well as secular traditions are so intermingled that it’s hard to draw a distinct line between them. Trying to do so may make one look like a fool and the 12 days of Christmas stand testimony to the fact.

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