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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