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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas rolls into Boxing Day. We don’t follow the British or American tradition of lining up at stores to return unwanted gifts or to shop the sales. Instead, Max arranges for us to volunteer at a soup kitchen.
Having fifteen people show up, ages two to seventy-seven, appears to be a shock for the organizers, but they soon put us to work. We help in the kitchen and dish out food. The guests love watching Felicity, the toddler, bowl around the room. She wheedles for bits of bread and sits on laps. Warmed with love, we go back to Max’s place for an early dinner of leftovers.

At First Sight, Chapter 29


Do you think the twelve days of Christmas are:

A. The first twelve days of December

B. The twelve days before Christmas

C. The days from Christmas to Epiphany

D. Just a song


If you picked C—you are correct. D was the ringer. Yes, it is a song, but more than just a song. While the idea has been floated the twelve gifts are tied to Christian symbolism, this is more myth than anything. According to Snopes, "Two very large red flags indicate that the claim about the “secret” origins of the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' is nothing more than a fanciful tale, similar to the many apocryphal “hidden meanings” of various nursery rhymes."


More likely, the song was a probably a late eighteenth century memory game for children.


The twelve days, on the other hand, do have significance, stretching from the birth of the Christ child to the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem. In some traditions, these days are December 25-January 5. In others, they start on St. Stephen's or Boxing Day on December 26 and end with the arrival of the Magi on January 6.


I usually celebrate, not by giving partridges in pear trees or lords a leaping, but by taking down my Christmas tree on January 6. And, this year, opening the equivalent of an Advent calendar, The Twelve Days of Madelinetosh, a celebration for knitters and crocheters (Cress and I are both knitters). I'm looking forward to opening those little triangles, starting on December 26.



Today, the song is the most memorable reminder of the twelve days of Christmas, but subscribe to my newsletter to get the January edition, which describes another wonderful tradition--King Cake, both the New Orleans version and the French Galette des Rois.


In the meantime, while you're waiting for Santa and the chance to eat plum pudding, pannetone, or whatever holiday foods you most enjoy, sample some of the many variations on The Twelve Days of Christmas. To get you started, here's an audio version of Another Partridge in a Pear Tree by Brian Sibley, recited by Penelope Keith. Follow this with Straight No Chaser's version of the song (this is the original from 1998, but YouTube has many other performances. And then, even though it's not a version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, Straight No Chaser's Christmas Can-Can is a joy.


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