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On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…..

Do you know when the first day of Christmas really is?  In America, people believe the first day is December 14th and count up to Christmas.  They’re wrong.  Retailers looking to make their mark during the Christmas season will use these days to push sales, as Christmas Day ends their holiday marketing season.  Actually, the twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day, December 25th and continue through to January 5th, the Twelfth Night, and finally end on January 6th or the Feast of the Epiphany.

There was even a story about a priest who claimed the song was intended as a catechism song to help young Catholics learn their faith, at a time when practicing Catholicism was criminalized in England (1558 until 1829).1  This was later debunked.

For some, Twelfth Night remains the biggest night for parties and gift-giving. Some households exchange gifts on the first (25 December) and last (5 January) days of the season. As in olden days, Twelfth Night to Epiphany morning is then the traditional time to take down the Christmas tree and decorations.2  My mom calls January 6th “Little Christmas”.

Again we find that the United States has all but forgotten these traditions.  We look at Christmas Day as a day of celebration, followed by planning for the next, New Year’s Day.  It would appear the meaning of Christmas all but gets lost in the party planning of our time.

Different cultures celebrate this time with feasts or with fasts.  There is no one way that is correct.  Many still follow the ways of Eastern Christianity, siting the twelve days as a time for celebration, a no fasting period, followed by fasting on January 5th until the first star is seen in the night sky.

No matter how you celebrate this Christmas season, always remember the real meaning behind the celebration.  We are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  Not the birth of the latest ipad.  Put Christ back in Christmas.  The world needs Him.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_%28song%29

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Days_of_Christmas

Related stories: What Is Christmas Really About?

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