Ha! You thought Christmas was over, didn’t you???
Remember the Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? Well, there are twelve days of Christmas and contrary to popular belief, they begin on Christmas Day and end on January 6! Today is THREE KINGS DAY, known as the day of the Three Kings (a.k.a. wise men or magi). If you watch “Touched By an Angel”, you will know their names – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Their names are in the Bible too – but I retain more information from TV shows. Anyhow, they saw the bright star of Bethlehem and followed it to the place where Christ lay in a manger and presented Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh.
So how do we celebrate this last day of Christmas? If there are goodies on your tree, it’s time for the kids to eat them – this is known as the “plündern” (raiding) of the tree. These days we don’t use many sweets to decorate, but I know some kids who will be happy to eat the candy canes they find! Then it’s time to take the Christmas tree down and dispose of it. People used to burn their trees in a big bonfire, but I don’t suppose that’s going on much anymore, especially in America. I think nowadays, the trees are left on the curb and they come along and make mulch out of it – and you get the bag of mulch.
When December 25th was finally adopted by the Western Christian Church as the date of the Feast of Christ’s birth in the fourth century, it’s believed that this change in date brought about the traditional “12 Days of Christmas.” While it’s not at all my favorite song (I refer to it as the Redundant Christmas headache song), it’s still interesting to know the history – it helps me cope better. So technically, we should not begin singing this Carol until Christmas Day – ah HA!!! Now we know!
The Western Christian Church celebrated the Feast of Christ’s birth on December 25th and the Eastern Christian Church still recognized January 6th as the day of celebration of the nativity. January 6th was also kept as the physical birthday in Bethlehem. In the Teutonic west, Epiphany became the Festival of the Three Kings, or Twelfth day.
I guess it’s like a RIGHT TWIX /LEFT TWIX THING. The two factories make the same product but refer to the process in different terminology. But they make the same thing – Twix! I must be hungry – I’m using food analogies.
The point I’m making is that we know the birth of Christ took place, and no matter what day we honor the birth, it’s the fact that we honor it that counts – not when we honor it.
The evening before Twelfth Day, prayers are said and dried herbs that have been blessed are burnt, their aroma filling the house. Entryways are sprinkled with holy water and the master of the house writes C + M + B (first initials of the wise men) and the year above the front door of the house and the barn door – and write “Protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water”. Usually the words “Christ bless this home” are written as well.
In Austria and Bavaria, the custom of the Star Singers is still very much alive. It is to signify the travel of the Three Kings and begins on New Years Day through January 6th. Children dress as the kings and hold up a large star. They go from door to door, caroling and singing a Three Kings’ song. In return they receive money or some sweet treat. In the old days the collected donations were given to unemployed craftsmen or veterans. Today they go to organized charities of the church or the Third World countries.
Some older folks still remember when Three Kings Day was celebrated. The evening of January 6th used to mean a big gathering with Christmas foods, Christmas carols sung around the piano and grandchildren eating the goodies off the tree before it was taken to be burned.
The standard tune now associated with The Twelve Days of Christmas is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin, who first introduced the now familiar prolongation of the verse “five gold rings” (everyone’s favorite part)!
So… NOW Christmas is over – let’s sing the song together one last time… on the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me… (take a DEEP BREATH…)
12 DRUMMERS DRUMMING, 11 PIPERS PIPING, 10 LORDS-A-LEAPING, 9 LADIES DANCING, 8 MAIDS-A-MILKING, 7 SWANS-A-SWIMMING, 6 GEESE-A-LAYING
FIVE GOLD RINGS… (take another DEEP BREATH)
4 CALLING BIRDS, 3 FRENCH HENS, 2 TURTLE DOVES…
AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE!!! Along with that – maybe a good pair of earplugs.
Just because I cannot sing does not mean I will not sing. 😉