When you are singing about those five golden rings, do you really know what you are celebrating? Well, it turns out that the song, the “12 Days of Christmas” is actually based on a combination of Christian holidays.
According to wikipedia, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning Christmas Day, which falls on December 25th and they continue for the next 12 days. This period is also known as Christmastide and Twelvetide. The actual Twelfth Night of Christmas is always on the evening of January 5, but the Twelfth Day can either precede or follow the Twelfth Night according to which Christian tradition is followed. Twelfth Night is followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. In some traditions, the first day of Epiphany and the twelfth day of Christmas overlap (January 6th).
As time has passed, different Christian denominations have celebrated different customs, time frames and interpretations. St. Stephen's Day, for example, is December 26th in the Western Church and December 27th in the Eastern Church. December 28th is Childermas or the Feast of the Innocents. December 26th is also known as Boxing Day but this is not associated with St Stephen and Boxing Day does not move to the 27th in the Eastern Church. Currently, the twelve days and nights are celebrated in widely varying ways around the world. Some give gifts only on Christmas Day, some only on Twelfth Night, and some each of the twelve nights.
It is this idea of giving a gift on each of the twelve nights that leads us to the song the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” So, next time, when you are thinking of a partridge, two turtledoves, three French hens, and so on, remember, there is always a reason for the season…even with their varying interpretations!