The 12 Days of Christmas are now most popular as a tune about someone receiving great deals of presents from their ‘true love ‘. However, to get to the song there had
to be the days to begin with! The 12 Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and last till the evening of the fifth January-likewise referred to as Twelfth Night. The 12 Days have actually been celebrated in Europe considering that before the middle ages and were a time of event.
The 12 Days each traditionally celebrate a feast day for a saint and/or have different celebrations:
- Day 1 (25th December): Christmas Day – celebrating the Birth of Jesus
- Day 2 (26th December also known as Boxing Day): St Stephen’s Day. He was the first Christian martyr (someone who craves their faith). It’s likewise the day when the Christmas Carol ‘Excellent King Wenceslas‘ happens.
- Day 3 (27th December): St John the Apostle (One of Jesus’s Disciples and pals)
- Day 4 (28th December): The Feast of the Holy Innocents – when individuals remember the child young boys which King Herod eliminated when he was trying to find and kill the Baby Jesus.
- Day 5 (29th December): St Thomas Becket. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century and was murdered on 29th December 1170 for challenging the King’s authority over the Church.
- Day 6 (30th December): St Egwin of Worcester.
- Day 7 (31st December): New Year’s Eve (referred to as Hogmanay in Scotland). Pope Sylvester I is typically celebrated on this day. He was among the earliest popes (in the 4th Century). In many main and eastern European countries (consisting of Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland and Slovenia) New Year’s Eve is still sometimes called ‘Silvester’. In the UK, New Year’s Eve was a conventional day for ‘video games’ and sporting competitors. Archery was a popular sport and during the middle ages it was the law that it needed to be practiced by all men between ages 17-60 on Sunday after Church! This was so the King had great deals of very good archers ready in case he require to go to war!
- Day 8 (1st January): 1st January – Mary, the Mom of Jesus
- Day 9 (second January): St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, two crucial fourth century Christians.
- Day 10 (3rd January): Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. This remembers when Jesus was officially ‘called’ in the Jewish Temple. It’s celebrated by various churches on a large variety of different dates!
- Day 11 (4th January): St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the very first American saint, who resided in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Day 12 (5th January also called Surprise Eve): St. John Neumann who was the very first Bishop in America (therefore far the only United States male person) to end up being a saint. He resided in the 19th century. In some churches, it’s likewise the Saint’s day of St Simeon Stylites the Senior, who survived on a little platform on the top of a pillar for 37 years!
Twelfth Night was a big time of celebration with individuals holding large celebrations. Throughout these celebrations, frequently the roles in society were reversed with the servants being served by the abundant individuals. This gone back to middle ages and Tudor times when Twelfth Night marked completion of ‘winter season’ which had actually started on 31st October with All Hallows Eve (Halloween).
At the start of Twelfth Night the Twelfth Night cake was eaten. This was an abundant cake made with eggs and butter, fruit, nuts and spices. The modern Italian Panettone is the cake we currently have that’s most like the old Twelfth Night cake.
A dried pea or bean was cooked in the cake. Whoever discovered it was the Lord (or Woman) of Misrule for night. The Lord of Misrule led the celebrations and was dressed like a King (or Queen). This tradition returns to the Roman events of Saturnalia. In later times, from about the Georgian duration onwards, to make the Twelfth Night ‘gentile’, two tokens were put in the cake (one for a guy and one for a ladies) and whoever discovered them ended up being the ‘King’ and ‘Queen’ of the Twelfth Night celebration.
In English Cathedrals, throughout the middle ages, there was the customized of the ‘Young boy Bishop’ where a young boy from the Cathedral or abbey school was chosen as a Bishop on sixth December (St Nicholas’s Day) and had the authority of a Bishop (other than to perform Mass) up until 28th December. King Henry VIII banned the practise in 1542 although it came back quickly under Mary I in 1552 however Elizabeth I finally stopped it throughout her reign.
During Twelfth Night it was standard for different kinds of pipes to be played, specifically bagpipes. Lots of video games were played consisting of ones with eggs. These included tossing an egg between 2 individuals moving even more apart throughout each toss – drop it and you lose; and passing an egg around on spoons. Another popular game was ‘snapdragon’ where you selected raisins or other dried fruit out of a tray of flaming brandy!
The first Monday after the Christmas banquet has actually ended up was called ‘Plough Monday’ as this was when farming work would all begin once again!
In lots of parts of the UK, individuals also went Wassailing on Twelfth Night.
Twelfth Night is also called Epiphany Eve. In many countries it’s standard to put the figures of the Wise Men/Three Kings into the Nativity Scene on Surprise Eve prepared to celebrate Surprise on the 6th January.
It’s likewise traditional to take your Christmas decors down following Twelfth Night.
Twelfth Night is also the name of a popular play written by William Shakespeare. It’s thought it was composed in 1601/1602 and was first performed at Candlemas in 1602, although it wasn’t published up until 1623.