Twelve Days of Christmas
The Twelve Days of Christmas (also called: ‘Twelve-tide’ or ‘Christmastide’) along with the evenings of those 12 days , are the festive days that begin on the evening of Christmas Day (25th of December) and last through the morning of Epiphany (6th of January). The actual traditions, interpretations and time frames were changed quite lot of times by different churches and sects of Christianity over the centuries. For example St. Stephen’s Day is December 26 in the Western Church, but December 27 in the Eastern Church.
Nowadays, the 12 Days of Christmas (and nights) are celebrated in wide variety of ways around the world. Some give gifts only on Christmas night, for example, some give them only on Twelfth Night, and some each of the 12 nights (lucky people). What what is common to all those churches is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th, and the following twelve days and nights leading to Epiphany on January 6th.
In the Middle Ages The Twelve Days of Christmas was a continuous feasting and merrymaking, with the climax on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmastide. These days, pagan customs were quite often combined with the real religious roots of the festival. Some of these traditions derived from the older pagan customs, including the Roman Saturnalia. Twelfth Night become well known in popular culture since William Shakespeare used it as setting in one of his really famous stage plays.
The American colonists have brought the tradition of the Twelve Days over from England, and adapted it their own way in the new country, adding cartain variations to it over the years. For example, the modern day Christmas wreath is believed to be introduced by these colonists. Making a homemade wreath was one of the traditions of Christmas Eve, to be hung on each home’s front door beginning on 1st night of Twelve-tide (December 25th) through the end of it – Epiphany morning. The tradition in their native England, was all the decorations would be taken down by Epiphany morning. A cake (now called the king cake) was also baked then for Epiphany.
Because of the constant growth of the secular traditions throughout the last two centuries, the traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas became largely forgotten in the United Stetes This is also somehow connected with the commercial practice of having ‘After-Christmas Sales’ that begin on December 26th that last usually until New Year’s Eve.