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We Explain the 12 Days of Christmas


We all know the famous 12 days of Christmas song, even if we regularly mix up what happens on the tenth and fourth days.

But when are the actual 12 days of Christmas? Here's when they start and end, and the meaning behind them.

When are the 12 days of Christmas and when does it start and end?

The 12 days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a Christian festive celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.

Twelvetide officially starts on Christmas Day on December 25 and finishes on January 5, inclusively.

During these twelve days, there are both religious and secular celebrations.

What does each day of Twelvetide mean?

Each day of Twelvetide has a different meaning:

The first day of Twelvetide, is Christmas Day is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

The second day of Christmas is Boxing Day and is also known as St Stephen’s Day in countries outside of the UK – it is the day of the Christian martyr St Stephen.

The third day of Christmas celebrates St John the Apostle, who wrote the Book of Revelation.

The fourth day of Christmas is the Feast Of The Holy Innocents - the day when people remember all of the baby boys who were killed by King Herod in his search to kill the Baby Jesus.

The fifth day of Christmas is remembering St Thomas Becket - he was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th Century and was killed on December 29 1170 for challenging the King’s authority over the church.

The sixth day of Christmas remembers St Egwin of Worcester, who died on December 30 717, he was known as the protector of orphans and the widowed.

The seventh day of Christmas (New Year’s Eve) celebrates Pope Sylvester I. In some eastern European countries New Year’s Eve is still known as Silvester.

The eighth day of Christmas falls (New Year’s Day) celebrates Mary the Mother of Jesus.

The ninth day of Christmas honours St Basil the Great and St Gregory Nazianzen - two important fourth century Christians.

The tenth day of Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – this marks the day Jesus was named in the Jewish Temple.

The eleventh day of Christmas celebrates the Feast of Saint Simeon Stylites who spent 37 years living on a small platform on top of a pillar in Aleppo.

The twelfth day of Christmas, January 5, is also known as Epiphany Eve – it’s the day before January 6 which is known as the Epiphany.

And this is what your true love gave to you on the final day...

Twelve drummers drumming
Eleven pipers piping
Ten lords a-leaping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight maids a-milking
Seven swans a-swimming
Six geese a-laying
Five gold rings
Four colly birds
Three french hens
Two turtle doves
...and a partridge in a pear tree