Tricky Bits: What are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Welcome to What’s in the Bible?’s 6-week blog series to help you and your family through the “Tricky Bits” of this holiday season – everything from connecting our modern traditions to their sacred roots to helping you navigate holiday budgets and meal planning! Join our team of writers plus some very special guest bloggers for a Christmas blog series unlike any other.

Partridge in a Pear TreeWhat are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Contrary to that beloved old Christmas song, the 12 Days of Christmas are not truly about the gifts of lords-a-leaping, ladies dancing, and pipers piping. Actually, the 12 days of Christmas refer to the 12 days between December 25 (Christmas Day) and January 6 (Epiphany). In some churches, the December holiday season is marked by two distinct celebrations: 1) Advent, which marks the 4 weeks before Christmas by anticipating the coming Christ; and 2) Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s birth which lasts 12 days until Epiphany, the day the wisemen visited the Christ child. In 567 AD, the Council of Tours declared the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany to be a sacred festival.

Now what about the popular song? Well, the tradition of a song or poem for the 12 days of Christmas is likely French or Gallic in tradition, but the first printed version of the lyrics was found in a children’s book printed in London around 1780.

Learn more about the 12 Days of Christmas from Clive and Ian in this video.

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7 comments
Jeff
Jeff

I was taught that the 12 days of Christmas was a way to teach doctrine to children in England after the Catholic Church was outlawed. The number and gift of each day symbolizes a foundational element of Christian faith. It would be great if there was a video laying all of that out.

Doris
Doris

Just discovered your site. Heard it mentioned on my radio. Very nice. Learned a few things and I have been a Christ follower for many years. Just shows you are never too old to learn something. Keep up the good work.

Leah Mick
Leah Mick

We love everything from What's in the Bible as well!! I was so excited when we watched the first DVD, I told my sister she need to watch it. Her response was that it was better than seminar! ha! We just had a Christmas party based on clip about why we celebrate with Christmas trees. We watched the clip and made a Christmas tree craft! Our favorite 12 days of Christmas book is: The 12 Days of Christmas: The Story Behind the Favorite Christmas song by Helen C. Haidle. Thank you for everything you guys are doing! We brag about you all the time!

Amberly S
Amberly S

Loving everything you guys are doing here. My daughter loves the "Why do we call it Christmas" DVD and we just started Everyday Emmanuel. It's exactly what I was looking for to keep this season focused more on Jesus. Hoping to add the "whats in the Bible" DVDs to our collection in the coming year. Keep up the good work!

Michelle
Michelle

It is the day we celebrate his birth, not his birthday. He was born in a time when that type of information was not kept. The day we celebrate is not as important as the why :)

Arthur Fischer
Arthur Fischer

Know the origins of the Chrismas celebration, seek the truth of our Savior's birth and you will find He was not born December 25th. So what are we celebrating!

Arthur Fischer
Arthur Fischer

Just one question-What are really celebrating this month?