|Twelve Days of Christmas|
|Observances||Varies by denomination, culture, and nation|
|Date||25 December – 5 January, inclusive|
|Related to||Christmas Day, Christmastide, Twelfth Night, Epiphany, and Epiphanytide|
The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus. In most Western ecclesiastical traditions, "Christmas Day" is considered the "First Day of Christmas" and the Twelve Days are 25 December through 5 January, inclusive.For many Christian denominations—for example, the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church—the Twelve Days are identical to Christmastide, but for others, e.g., the Roman Catholic Church, Christmastide lasts longer than the Twelve Days of Christmas.
In 567, the Council of Tours "proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season, and established the duty of Advent fasting in preparation for the feast."Christopher Hill, as well as William J. Federer, states that this was done in order to solve the "administrative problem for the Roman Empire as it tried to coordinate the solar Julian calendar with the lunar calendars of its provinces in the east."
The Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian Catholic Church celebrate the Birth and Baptism of Christ on the same day,so that there is no distinction between a feast of Christmas and a feast of Epiphany.
The Oriental Orthodox (other than the Armenians), the Eastern Orthodox, and the Eastern Catholics who follow the same traditions have a twelve-day interval between the two feasts. Christmas and Epiphany are celebrated by these churches on 25 December and 6 January using the Julian calendar, which correspond to 7 January and 19 January using the Gregorian calendar. The Twelve Days, using the Gregorian calendar, end at sunset on 18 January.
For the Eastern Orthodox, both Christmas and Epiphany are among the Twelve Great Feasts that are only second to Easter in importance.
The period between Christmas and Epiphany is fast-free. e. Christmas Eve) is "The Nativity According to the Flesh of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ", and celebrates not only the Nativity of Jesus, but also the Adoration of the Shepherds of Bethlehem and the arrival of the Magi; the second day is referred to as the "Synaxis of the Theotokos", and commemorates the role of the Virgin Mary in the Incarnation; the third day is known as the "Third Day of the Nativity", and is also the feast day of the Protodeacon and Protomartyr Saint Stephen. 29 December is the Orthodox Feast of the Holy Innocents. The Afterfeast of the Nativity (similar to the Western octave) continues until 31 December (that day is known as the Apodosis or "leave-taking" of the Nativity).During this period one celebration leads into another. The Nativity of Christ is a three-day celebration: the formal title of the first day (i.
The Saturday following the Nativity is commemorated by special readings from the Epistle (1 Tim 6:11-16) and Gospel (Matt 12:15-21) during the Divine Liturgy. The Sunday after the Nativity has its own liturgical commemoration in honour of "The Righteous Ones: Joseph the Betrothed, David the King and James the Brother of the Lord".
Another of the more prominent festivals that are included among the Twelve Great Feasts is that of the Circumcision of Christ on 1 January.On this same day is the feast day of Saint Basil the Great, and so the service celebrated on that day is the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil.
On 2 January begins the Forefeast of the Theophany. The Eve of the Theophany on 5 January is a day of strict fasting, on which the devout will not eat anything until the first star is seen at night. This day is known as Paramony (Greek Παραμονή "Eve"), and follows the same general outline as Christmas Eve. That morning is the celebration of the Royal Hours and then the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil combined with Vespers, at the conclusion of which is celebrated the Great Blessing of Waters, in commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. There are certain parallels between the hymns chanted on Paramony and those of Good Friday, to show that, according to Orthodox theology, the steps that Jesus took into the Jordan River were the first steps on the way to the Cross. That night the All-Night Vigil is served for the Feast of the Theophany.
Within the Twelve Days of Christmas, there are celebrations both secular and religious.
Christmas Day, if it is considered to be part of the Twelve Days of Christmas and not as the day preceding the Twelve Days,is celebrated by Christians as the liturgical feast of the Nativity of the Lord. It is a public holiday in many nations, including some where the majority of the population is not Christian. On this see the articles on Christmas and Christmas traditions .
26 December is "St. Stephen's Day", a feast day in the Western Church. In Great Britain and its former colonies, it is also the secular holiday of Boxing Day. In some parts of Ireland it is denominated "Wren Day".
New Year's Eve on 31 December is the feast of Pope St. Sylvester I and is known also as "Silvester". The transition that evening to the new year is an occasion for secular festivities in many nations, and in several languages is known as "St. Sylvester Night" ("Notte di San Silvestro" in Italian, "Silvesternacht" in German, "Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre" in French, and "סילבסטר" in Hebrew).
New Year's Day on 1 January is an occasion for further secular festivities or for rest from the celebrations of the night before. In the Roman Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, it is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, liturgically celebrated on the Octave Day of Christmas. It has also been celebrated, and still is in some denominations, as the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, because according to Jewish tradition He would have been circumcised on the eighth day after His Birth, inclusively counting the first day and last day. This day, or some day proximate to it, is also celebrated by the Roman Catholics as World Day of Peace.
In many nations, e. g., the United States, the Solemnity of Epiphany is transferred to the first Sunday after 1 January, which can occur as early as 2 January. That solemnity, then, together with customary observances associated with it, usually occur within the Twelve Days of Christmas, even if these are considered to end on 5 January rather than 6 January.
Other Roman Catholic liturgical feasts on the General Roman Calendar that occur within the Octave of Christmas and therefore also within the Twelve Days of Christmas are the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist on 27 December; the Feast of the Holy Innocents on 28 December; Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr on 29 December; and the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas or, if there is no such Sunday, on 30 December. Outside the Octave, but within the Twelve Days of Christmas, there are the feast of Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus on 2 January and the Memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus on 3 January.
Other saints are celebrated at a local level.
The Second Council of Tours of 567 noted that, in the area for which its bishops were responsible, the days between Christmas and Epiphany were, like the month of August, taken up entirely with saints' days. Monks were therefore in principle not bound to fast on those days.However, the first three days of the year were to be days of prayer and penance so that faithful Christians would refrain from participating in the idolatrous practices and debauchery associated with the new year celebrations. The Fourth Council of Toledo (633) ordered a strict fast on those days, on the model of the Lenten fast.
In England in the Middle Ages, this period was one of continuous feasting and merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night itself was forever solidified in popular culture when William Shakespeare used it as the setting for one of his most famous stage plays, titled Twelfth Night . Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels.
Some of these traditions were adapted from the older pagan customs, including the Roman Saturnalia and the Germanic Yuletide.Some also have an echo in modern-day pantomime where traditionally authority is mocked and the principal male lead is played by a woman, while the leading older female character, or 'Dame', is played by a man.
This section needs additional citations for verification . (December 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The early North American colonists brought their version of the Twelve Days over from England, and adapted them to their new country, adding their own variations over the years. For example, the modern-day Christmas wreath may have originated with these colonials.A homemade wreath would be fashioned from local greenery and fruits, if available, were added. Making the wreaths was one of the traditions of Christmas Eve; they would remain hung on each home's front door beginning on Christmas Night (1st night of Christmas) through Twelfth Night or Epiphany morning. As was already the tradition in their native England, all decorations would be taken down by Epiphany morning and the remainder of the edibles would be consumed. A special cake, the king cake, was also baked then for Epiphany.
Many in the UK and other Commonwealth nations still celebrate some aspects of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Boxing Day, 26 December, is a national holiday in many Commonwealth nations. Victorian era stories by Charles Dickens, and others, particularly A Christmas Carol , hold key elements of the celebrations such as the consumption of plum pudding, roasted goose and wassail. These foods are consumed more at the beginning of the Twelve Days in the UK.
Twelfth Night is the last day for decorations to be taken down, and it is held to be bad luck to leave decorations up after this.This is in contrast to the custom in Elizabethan England, when decorations were left up until Candlemas; this is still done in some other Western European countries such as Germany.
In the United States, Christmas Day is a federal holiday which holds additional religious significance for Christians.
The traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas have been nearly forgotten in the United States. Contributing factors include the popularity of the stories of Charles Dickens in nineteenth-century America, with their emphasis on generous giving; introduction of secular traditions in the 19th and 20th centuries, e. g., the American Santa Claus; and increase in the popularity of secular New Year's Eve parties. Presently, the commercial practice treats the Solemnity of Christmas, 25 December, the first day of Christmas, as the last day of the "Christmas" marketing season, as the numerous "after-Christmas sales" that commence on 26 December demonstrate. The commercial calendar has encouraged an erroneous assumption that the Twelve Days end on Christmas Day and must therefore begin on 14 December.
Many American Christians still celebrate the traditional liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas, especially Amish, Anglo-Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Mennonites, Methodists, Moravians, Nazarenes, Orthodox Christians, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics. In Anglicanism, the designation of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" is used liturgically in the Episcopal Church in the US, having its own invitatory antiphon in the Book of Common Prayer for Matins.
Christians who celebrate the Twelve Days may give gifts on each of them, with each of the Twelve Days representing a wish for a corresponding month of the new year. They may feast on traditional foods and otherwise celebrate the entire time through the morning of the Solemnity of Epiphany. Contemporary traditions include lighting a candle for each day, singing the verse of the corresponding day from the famous The Twelve Days of Christmas , and lighting a yule log on Christmas Eve and letting it burn some more on each of the twelve nights. For some, the Twelfth Night remains the night of the most festive parties and exchanges of gifts. Some households exchange gifts on the first (25 December) and last (5 January) days of the Twelve Days. As in former times, the Twelfth Night to the morning of Epiphany is the traditional time during which Christmas trees and decorations are removed.
Christmas in Poland is a major annual celebration, as in most countries of the Christian world. The observance of Christmas developed gradually over the centuries, beginning in ancient times; combining old Polish pagan customs with the religious ones introduced after the Christianization of Poland by the Catholic Church. Later influences include mutual permeating of local traditions and various folk cultures. It is one of the most important religious holidays for Poles, who follow a somewhat strict traditional custom. Christmas trees are decorated and lit in family rooms on the day of Christmas Eve. Other trees are placed in most public areas and outside churches. Christmas in Poland is called "Boże Narodzenie", which translates to 'God's Birth'.
The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years.
Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. Advent is the beginning of the Western liturgical year. The term "Advent" is also used in Eastern Orthodoxy for the 40-day Nativity Fast, which has practices different from those in the West.
Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day before Christmas Day, the festival commemorating the birth of Jesus. Christmas Day is observed around the world, and Christmas Eve is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day. Together, both days are considered one of the most culturally significant celebrations in Christendom and Western society.
New Year's Day, also simply called New Year, is observed on 1 January, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar.
The nativity of Jesus, nativity of Christ, birth of Christ or birth of Jesus is described in the Biblical gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, his mother Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph, who was descended from King David and was not his biological father, and that his birth was caused by divine intervention.
In the Catholic Church, holy days of obligation are days on which the faithful are expected to attend Mass, and engage in rest from work and recreation, according to the Third Commandment.
Little Christmas, also known as Old Christmas, is one of the traditional names among Irish Christians and Amish Christians for 6 January, which is also known more widely as the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated after the conclusion of the twelve days of Christmastide. It is the traditional end of the Christmas season and until 2013 was the last day of the Christmas holidays for both primary and secondary schools in Ireland.
Christmastide is a season of the liturgical year in most Christian churches. In some Christian denominations, Christmastide is identical to Twelvetide, a similar concept.
Twelfth Night is a festival in some branches of Christianity that takes place on the last night of the Twelve Days of Christmas, marking the coming of the Epiphany. Different traditions mark the date of Twelfth Night on either 5 January or 6 January, depending on which day one considers to be the first of the Twelve Days: 25 or 26 December.
Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation (theophany) of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.
The Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated by various Christian communities in honor of the transfiguration of Jesus. The origins of the feast are less than certain and may have derived from the dedication of three basilicas on Mount Tabor. The feast was present in various forms by the 9th century, and in the Western Church was made a universal feast on 6 August by Pope Callixtus III to commemorate the raising of the Siege of Belgrade (1456).
The Epiphany season, also known as Epiphanytide, is in some churches recognized as a liturgical period following the Christmas season (Christmastide). It begins on the day of Epiphany, and ends at various points as defined by those churches.
The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ is a Christian celebration of the circumcision of Jesus in accordance with Jewish tradition, eight days after his birth, the occasion on which the child was formally given his name.
In Christian liturgy, a vigil is, in origin, a religious service held during the night leading to a Sunday or other feastday. The Latin term vigilia, from which the word is derived meant a night watch, not necessarily in a military context, and generally reckoned as a fourth part of the night from sunset to sunrise. The four watches or vigils were of varying length in line with the seasonal variation of the length of the night.
The Nativity Fast is a period of abstinence and penance practiced by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, in preparation for the Nativity of Jesus. The corresponding Western season of preparation for Christmas, which also has been called the Nativity Fast and St. Martin's Lent, has taken the name of Advent. The Eastern fast runs for 40 days instead of four or six weeks and thematically focuses on proclamation and glorification of the Incarnation of God, whereas the Western Advent focuses on the two comings of Jesus Christ: his birth and his Second Coming or Parousia.
"Octave" has two senses in Christian liturgical usage. In the first sense, it is the eighth day after a feast, reckoning inclusively, and so always falls on the same day of the week as the feast itself. The word is derived from Latin octava (eighth), with dies (day) understood. In the second sense, the term is applied to the whole period of these eight days, during which certain major feasts came to be observed.
The Nativity of John the Baptist is a Christian feast day celebrating the birth of John the Baptist.
Beginning 2017, Ukrainian Christmas festivities start on Christmas Eve, which is celebrated on 24 December following the Gregorian calendar in official use in the Western Christian communities of Ukraine. The Christmas celebrations end on 19 January, the date of "Jordan" or Epiphany in the Julian calendar.
January 5th: Twelfth Night or Epiphany Eve. Twelfth Night, the last evening of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, has been observed with festive celebration ever since the Middle Ages.
The Twelve Days of Christmas ... in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th with the following day considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th). In these traditions, the twelve days begin December 26[th] and include Epiphany on January 6[th].
On the Twelve Days of Christmas Alleluia. Unto us a child is born: O come, let us adore Him. Alleluia.
As with the Easter cycle, churches today celebrate the Christmas cycle in different ways. Practically all Protestants observe Christmas itself, with services on 25 December or the evening before. Anglicans, Lutherans and other churches that use the ecumenical Revised Common Lectionary will likely observe the four Sundays of Advent, maintaining the ancient emphasis on the eschatological (First Sunday), ascetic (Second and Third Sundays), and scriptural/historical (Fourth Sunday). Besides Christmas Eve/Day, they will observe a 12-day season of Christmas from 25 December to 5 January.
The Council of Tours (567) proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season, and established the duty of Advent fasting in preparation for the feast. The Council of Braga (563) forbade fasting on Christmas Day.
Around the year 400 the feasts of St Stephen, John the Evangelist and the Holy Innocents were added on succeeding days, and in 567 the Council of Tours ratified the enduring 12-day cycle between the nativity and the epiphany.
In the year 567 the church council of Tours called the 13 days between December 25 and January 6 a festival season.
The Second Council of Tours (can. xi, xvii) proclaims, in 566 or 567, the sanctity of the "twelve days" from Christmas to Epiphany, and the duty of Advent fast; …and that of Braga (563) forbids fasting on Christmas Day. Popular merry-making, however, so increased that the "Laws of King Cnut", fabricated c. 1110, order a fast from Christmas to Epiphany.
The Council of Tours (567) decreed the 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany to be sacred and especially joyous, thus setting the stage for the celebration of the Lord’s birth...
This arrangement became an administrative problem for the Roman Empire as it tried to coordinate the solar Julian calendar with the lunar calendars of its provinces in the east. While the Romans could roughly match the months in the two systems, the four cardinal points of the solar year--the two equinoxes and solstices--still fell on different dates. By the time of the first century, the calendar date of the winter solstice in Egypt and Palestine was eleven to twelve days later than the date in Rome. As a result the Incarnation came to be celebrated on different days in different parts of the Empire. The Western Church, in its desire to be universal, eventually took them both--one became Christmas, one Epiphany--with a resulting twelve days in between. Over time this hiatus became invested with specific Christian meaning. The Church gradually filled these days with saints, some connected to the birth narratives in Gospels (Holy Innocents' Day, December 28, in honor of the infants slaughtered by Herod; St. John the Evangelist, "the Beloved," December 27; St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, December 26; the Holy Family, December 31; the Virgin Mary, January 1). In 567, the Council of Tours declared the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to become one unified festal cycle.
In 567 AD, the Council of Tours ended a dispute. Western Europe celebrated Christmas, December 25, as the holiest day of the season... but Eastern Europe celebrated Epiphany, January 6, recalling the Wise Men's visit and Jesus' baptism. It could not be decided which day was holier, so the Council made all 12 days from December 25 to January 6 "holy days" or "holidays," These became known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
Western Europe celebrated Christmas December 25 as the holiest day. Eastern Europe celebrated January 6 the Epiphany, the visit of the Wise Men, as the holiest day... and so they had this council and they decided to make all twelve days from December 25 to January 6 the Twelve Days of Christmas.
De Decembri usque ad natale Domini, omni die ieiunent. Et quia inter natale Domini et epiphania omni die festivitates sunt, itemque prandebunt. Excipitur triduum illud, quo ad calcandam gentilium consuetudinem, patres nostri statuerunt privatas in Kalendariis Ianuarii fieri litanias, ut in ecclesiis psallatur, et hora octava in ipsis Kalendis Circumcisionis missa Deo propitio celebretur. (Translation: "In December until Christmas, they are to fast each day. Since between Christmas and Epiphany there are feasts on each day, they shall have a full meal, except during the three-day period on which, in order to tread Gentile customs down, our fathers established that private litanies for the Calends of January be chanted in the churches, and that on the Calends itself Mass of the Circumcision be celebrated at the eighth hour for God's favour.")
Christmas is a major holiday for Christians, although some non-Christians in the United States also mark the day as a holiday.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Christmastide .|
|Look up Twelve Days of Christmas in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|