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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas, a traditional counting song that is also a brilliant evocation of the season, is one of my favorite carols. But what are the the twelve days of Christmas? Some things you should know.

1. They don't culminate with Christmas Day. Instead, they begin on Dec. 26, Boxing Day or more traditionally St. Stephen's Day, and end with Epiphany on Jan. 6, although some people count from Christmas to Jan. 5.

According to Classic FM, "There is a raging debate as to when exactly Twelvetide starts. While some would suggest the first day of Christmas is Christmas Day itself (25th December), the majority see 26th December as day one, meaning magic number 12 falls on the 6th of January; the traditional Christian feast day of Epiphany."

2. You can get twelve days of Christmas calendars that are like Advent Calendars, which are for the twenty-four days before Christmas. If you do both, you could have 36 little doors to open between the beginning of December and the first week of January.

Here's mine. If you knit or crochet, this is the one for you. This is my third year of getting the Madelinetosh boxes.

3. The website Fandom says, "Although the specific origins of the chant are not known, it possibly began as a Twelfth Night "memories-and-forfeits" game, in which a leader recited a verse, each of the players repeated the verse, the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake, with the player who erred having to pay a penalty, such as offering up a kiss or a sweet. This is how the game is offered up in its earliest known printed version, in the children's book Mirth without Mischief (c. 1780) published in England, which 100 years later Lady Gomme, a collector of folktales and rhymes, described playing every Twelfth Day night before eating mince pies and twelfth cake."

4. Check out this article from Real Simple for the real scoop.

As for renditions of the song, here are a few that are a little more unusual.

This one, performed by Penelope Keith, highlights the results of receiving the gifts.

This is the original performance of Straight No Chaser's Twelve Days of Christmas in 1998.

For a Canadian take, check out Twelve Days of Christmas performed by Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas)

The U.S. Navy can be funny too. Here's the U.S. Navy Band The Sideboys.

And finally, Simon's Cat

Have a happy holiday season.

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