Saturday, December 26, 2009

12 Days Before or After Christmas? and spiritual significance?

Twelve Days of Christmas

What is often not understood is that The Twelve Days Of Christmas which we now customarily celebrate as preceding Christmas day, really begin on Christmas day December 25 and proceed until January 5 the day before the twelfth day, the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. For instance, the BC Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport this year promoted the Twelve Days of Christmas from December 13 to December 24 in Robson Square with ice skating at GE, hot chocolate, visits from Santa Claus, entertainment and children’s craft activities.

In actual fact the Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning on Christmas Day (25 December). This period has been known as Christmastide. The Twelfth night marked the end of the Christmas season. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night itself was forever solidified in popular culture when William Shakespeare used it as setting for one of his most famous stage plays, titled Twelfth Night.

Although the song by this name ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ was first published in England in 1780, the textual evidence may indicate the song is of French origin and this popular Christmas carol contains increasingly grandiose gifts which ‘my true love sent to me’ over a twelve day span of Christmastide: 12 Drummers Drumming, 11 Pipers Piping, 10 Lords a-Leaping, 9 Ladies Dancing, 8 Maids a-Milking, 7 Swans a-Swimming, 6 Geese a-Laying, 5 Gold Rings, 4 Colly Birds (often given as "Calling Birds"), 3 French Hens, 2 Turtle Doves, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

The song itself has often been viewed as a nonsense song for children. In fact, there have been numerous parodies of the song through the years. Interestingly, as early as the 16th century there were implications of spirituality for the song, that is that there were hidden references to basic Christian tenets of faith. The latter notion suggests that this is a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters so each gift refers to some aspect of Christian faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, and Three French Hens are the Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love (1 Corinthians 13:13) and Nine Ladies Dancing are the nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control.(Galatians 5:22). I am sorry but this effort strikes me as improbable, even comedic. Some church historians affirm this account as basically accurate, while others point out apparent historical and logical discrepancies. There is no substantive evidence available either way.

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