Celebrated since medieval times, the Twelve Days of Christmas traditionally begin the day after Christmas Day, now known as Boxing Day, and end with Twelfth Night.
(Twelfth Night is the evening of the 5th January. Click here to read about Twelfth Night )
|'Dick! Now I cannot - really, I cannot allow any dancing at all till Christmas Day is out,' said old William emphatically.When the clock ha' done striking twelve, dance as much as ye like.'
Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy.
When are the Twelve Days of Christmas?
The Twelve Days of Christmas are the last six days of the old year (26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 December ) and the first six days of the New Year (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 January).
The Twelve Days of Christmas start on 26 December
"The evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking".
Oxford English Dictionary
Why don't the Twelve Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day?
The Twelve Days of Christmas started on the day after Christmas as Christmas day traditionally was considered holy and not for ‘partying'.
Are we talking days or nights?
Christmas Day used to officially end at sun down on 25th, when it was considered to be the start of Boxing day.
(see our explanation here)
Why Twelve Days of Christmas?
It took the 'Three Kings' twelve days to find the baby Jesus. Their arrival on the twelfth day led - centuries later - to the creation of the Feast of Epiphany
What traditionally happened during the Twelve Days of Christmas in England?
The 12 days were filled with merry-making, dancing and continuous feasting. During the Twelve Days, people would visit their neighbours sharing and enjoying the traditional minced pie and other Christmas foods.
Traditionally a Yule log was kept alight for these 12 days and was considered a bad omen if it went out before time!
The twelve days of Christmas would have been a most welcome break for the workers on the land, which long ago would have been the majority of the people. All work, except for looking after the animals, would stop.
The Christmas season used to last much longer (until 2 February), but people wanted the peasants to get back to work earlier, and so the festive season was shortened so that it ended on Twelfth Night. The first Monday following Epiphany (Twelfth Day) was called Plough Monday, because it was the time the farm workers were expected to return to the fields.
Click here for more Twelfth Days/Night Traditions
The Origins of the Twelve Days of Christmas Song
Wassail ceremonies took place during the 12 days of Christmas in attempts to counter the power of evil spirits. Read More....
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