Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What Are the Twelve Days of Christmas?

First and foremost, when are the twelve days of Christmas?

The twelve days last from Christmas through Epiphany (when the High Church celebrates the arrival of the wise men). Depending on when the church denomination starts the count, it may begin the evening of December 25th (or the morning of the 26th) and run through the evening of January 5th (or the morning of the 6th).

After extensive research, I believe that this is a fairly accurate outline of the feasts of the twelve days, as well as why they are celebrated.

Day of Christmas
First day of Christmas:
December 26th:
Feast of St. Stephen (1st Martyr)/Boxing Day. Give to the Poor
Second day of Christmas:
December 27th:
Feast of St. John the evangelist. Lots of candles. Remember martyrs. Reconciliation.
Third day of Christmas:
December 28th:
Feast of Holy Innocents. Pro-life. Remember genocide victims.
Fourth day of Christmas:
December 29th:

Feast of St. Thomas Beckett (Archbishop of Canterbury, stood for justice and died). Fight injustice
Fifth day of Christmas:
December 30th:
Feast of the Holy Family (First Sunday after Christmas)
Sixth day of Christmas:
December 31st:
St. Sylvester’s Night (pope). Pardon those you hurt. Welcome neighbors/family-bring symbol of God’s Blessing from past year. Make noise-not caught sleeping (Luke 12:35-40)
Seventh day of Christmas:
January 1st:
Feast of Mary, mother of God. New beginnings. Bless family members. OR
Feast of Circumcision of Our Lord
Eighth day of Christmas:
January 2nd:
St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen-4th century teachers of Trinity. Spend time with friends . OR
Day of St. Stephen
Ninth day of Christmas:
January 3rd:
Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (if no Sunday between Jan. 1st and 6th). Meaning of our names and why chosen
Day of St. John.
Tenth day of Christmas:
January 4th:
unknown (Elizabeth Ann Seton??)
Day of Holy Innocents
Eleventh day of Christmas:
January 5th:
unknown (John Neumann??)
Vigil of Feast of Epiphany
Twelfth day of Christmas:
January 6th:
Epiphany (and blessing). Magi

January 13th
Baptism of the Lord, closing of Epiphany

That's a lot of feasts there, Liz. I know, right? The nerd in me anticipates doing research on these events and the people mentioned.

What's the difference between the feast of the holy innocents (day 3) and the day of holy innocents (day 10)? Good question. Don't know. :-)

Now I admit, these celebrations are very high church, very Catholic. Not every denomination pays attention to Saints.

But putting this aside, I ask, is it bad to give to the poor (day 1)?
Remember martyrs (day 2)?
Remember genocide victims and be pro-life (day 3)?
To fight injustice (day 4)?
To pardon those you've hurt (day 6)?
To bless your family and start anew (day 7)?
To spend time with friends (day 8)?
To swap stories about name meanings and reasons for names (day 9)?
To remember that the wise men really didn't come to the stable (day 12)?
To re-read the story of Jesus' baptism (January 13th)? 

Even if you're not a fan of the high church, I think the twelve days of Christmas may provide an opportunity for fellowship and compassion, and as such, fit in with the Christmas spirit.


  1. Elizabeth - i never knew this. Thanks for the info. Love, mom

  2. Thank you for sharing such an informative and interesting post Liz. :) I hope more people get to read this post and appreciate the true Christian celebration of Christmas and know that Christmas day is not the end but actually the beginning of the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth and life.

  3. I really enjoy researching topics, especially related to Church history. God Bless!!