21892The Twelve Days of Christmas
- Jan 5, 2006I noticed this note on our Christmas music tonight:
"The Twelve days of Christmas-the days linking Christmas on December
25 and the Epiphany on January 6 (when the three Magi offered the
first Christmas presents-gold, frankencense, and myrrh) were declared
a festal tide by the Council of Tours in 567. Since then it has been
a time when noble and peasant alike put work aside and enjoyed an
extended holiday of feasting, celebration, and sharing with others.
It was considered bad luck to enter someone's home empty-handed.
The courting song named for this religious holiday is actually quite
pagan in tone and is the only carol we know that celebrates, in the
form of a list, the Christmas tradition of gift-giving. It is said to
date back to the thirteenth century manuscript in the Library of
Trinity College, Cambridge, England. The carol appeared in print for
the first time in a children's book entitled, "Mirth without
Mischief," published in London about 1780.
The "Twelve Days of Christmas" became very popular as a game song-
usually played at a large gathering of children and adults on the
Tweflth Day night, just before the eating of mince pie. With the
company seated all around the room, the leader of the game began by
singing the first day lines, which were then repeated by each of the
company in turn. Then the first day lines were repeated with the
addition of the second day lines by the leader, and this was repeated
all in turn. This continued until all the lines of the twelve days
were repeated by everyone. If anyone missed a line, they would have
to forfeit something of theirs to the group."
I looked up the Council of Tours and found this, just in from
Washington(from the Center for Christian Statemanship)
In 567 AD, at the Council of Tours, the church tried to reconcile a
dispute between Western Europe and Eastern Europe. The West
celebrated the feast of Christ's birth on Christmas day, December
25th as it's major holiday, and the East celebrated this day, January
6th as Epiphany, remembering the visit of the Wise Men and Jesus'
baptism. Since no agreement could be reached on a specific date, the
decision was made to have all 12 days between December 25th and
January 6th designated "holy days" or as it was later
pronounced "holidays." These became known as the "Twelve Days of
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