Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The celebration of the 12 Days of Christmas has long been heralded in the song by the same name and that song has led to the misnomer that it is celebrated in the 12 days leading up to Christmas. But this is not the case.

Eastern and Western churches both celebrate the Epiphany 12 days AFTER Christmas. But they both celebrate it slightly different to add to your confusion!

The Eastern Churches celebrate the baptism of Christ in the Jordan, calling it the Feast of Theophany, where the emphasis is on the "shining forth" and revelation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Second Person of the Trinity as the baptism occured. They celebrate on January 6th.

The Western Churches celebrate the coming of the Magi (traditionally named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) when they sought out the infant Jesus with gifts that carried great prophetic significance. Gold reflected the kingship of Jesus the Messiah. Frankincense was a spice used in the priestly duties. And myrrh was an embalming ointment that signified Jesus' death.

The Western historically observed it as 12-day feast beginning on Christmas Day and ending on January 5th. But the liturgical church (Roman Catholic Church) in 1970 revised their calendar of saints and Epiphany is now celebrated on January 6th.

Urban legend declares that religious symbolism is hidden in the gifts named in the popular 12 Days of Christmas song. That is questionable, but it's interesting to take note of the symbolism that some people have placed on the gifts:

A Partridge in a Pear Tree - Jesus Christ
Two Turtle Doves - The Old and New Testaments
Three French Hens - Faith, Hope and Charity, the theological values
Four Calling Birds - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, or the Four Gospels
Five Golden Rings – The five books of Moses, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
Six Geese-a-Laying – The six days of creation before God rested
Seven Swans-a-Swimming – The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
Eight Maids-a-Milking – The eight Beatitudes
Nine Ladies Dancing – The nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten Lords-a-Leaping - Ten Commandments
Eleven Pipers Piping - Eleven faithful disciples
Twelve Drummers Drumming -Twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed

Here is a great rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Be blessed!

by Bonnie Calhoun