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When Are the Twelve Days of Christmas?

We love to sing that joyful and slightly humorous song at Christmas time. But does anyone know what those twelve days are about? Is it part of Advent? Or maybe it is just a random number around which someone has created an enjoyable song.

It is not a random number. The days are not about Advent. The twelve days refer to a specific period of time after Christmas. After Christmas! They are the days between December 25 and January 6, to be exact. Here is what they stand for —

Our Christmas is December 25. The Wisemen arrived on January 6. We give our gifts to each other on December 25th, but in a major part of Europe, especially Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, Christians present their gifts on January 6. That is the day the Magi presented their gifts to the baby Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. In northern Europe, gifts are given, starting on December 25, and every day, continuing until January 6. This is the origin of the song - a gift every day.

January 6 is known as Epiphany. Epiphany is a Greek word that means "to reveal". In the Christmas-Epiphany season it is the revelation of God's incredible love to humanity that is revealed. The Wisemen from the East represent God's gift of The Christ Child to the Gentiles, to all of us.

As we sing the joyful "Twelve Days of Christmas", now we know it is about God's wonderful gift celebrated on Epiphany.


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