The 12 Days each traditionally celebrate a feast day for a saint and/or have different celebrations:
- Day 1 (25th December): Christmas Day – celebrating the Birth of Jesus
- Day 2 (26th December also known as Boxing Day): St Stephen’s Day. He was the first Christian martyr (someone who dies for their faith). It’s also the day when the Christmas Carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ takes place.
- Day 3 (27th December): St John the Apostle (One of Jesus’s Disciples and friends)
- Day 4 (28th December): The Feast of the Holy Innocents – when people remember the baby boys which King Herod killed when he was trying to find and kill the Baby Jesus.
- Day 5 (29th December): St Thomas Becket. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century and was murdered on 29th December 1170 for challenging the King’s authority over Church.
- Day 6 (30th December): St Egwin of Worcester.
- Day 7 (31st December): New Years Eve (known as Hogmanay in Scotland). Pope Sylvester I is traditionally celebrated on this day. He was one of the earliest popes (in the 4th Century).
- Day 8 (1st January): 1st January – Mary, the Mother of Jesus
- Day 9 (2nd January): St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, two important 4th century Christians.
- Day 10 (3rd January): Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. This remembers when Jesus was officially ‘named’ in the Jewish Temple
- Day 11 (4th January): St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the past it also celebrated the feast of Saint Simon Stylites (who lives on a small platform on the top of a pillar for 37 years!).
- Day 12 (5th January also known as Epiphany Eve): St. John Neumann who was the first Bishop in American. He lived in the 19th century. (The 12 Days of Christmas)
“There appears to be no conclusive historical evidence to prove this origin of the song. Nevertheless, the traditional association between the gifts mentioned in the song and various spiritual gifts is a fun way to turn a seemingly secular Christmas carol into a valuable catechetical tool.” (Key to the Twelve Days of Christmas)
Partridge in a pear tree Jesus Christ, symbolized as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from helpless nestlings.
Two turtle doves Old & New Testaments
Three French Hens Faith, hope, charity
Four Calling birds The Four Gospels
Five Golden Rings The Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Six geese a laying Six days of creation
Seven Swans a swimming 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milking 8 Beatitudes
Nine Ladies Dancing Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten Lords a-leaping 10 Commandments
Eleven pipers piping The 11 faithful disciples
12 drummers drumming 12 articles of the Apostles Creed