On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree…
The Twelve Days of Christmas also referred to as Twelvetide, is a festive season celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the spread of Christianity around the world.
The Twelve Days of Christmas, however became popular because of an eighteenth century song of the same name.
Here we explain the importance of each day of the Twelvetide.
Day 1: Christmas
Christmas, the festival, celebrates the nativity or the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus was born to Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem.
Day 2: Saint Stephen’s Day
Saint Stephen was the Protomartyr or the first martyr of Christianity. According to the Acts of Apostles, which tells about the founding of the Christian Church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire, he was a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem.
He is said to have aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. He was accused of blasphemy at his trial, and in his defense, he made a long speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him. He was then, stoned to death and thus is referred to as the first martyr.
This day is also known as Boxing Day in the UK.
Day 3: Dedicated to Saint John
This day celebrates Saint John. According to the second biblical canon, the New Testament, he was the youngest of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. The apostles were his closest followers of Jesus, and they became the primary teachers of the gospel message of Jesus.
Day 4: Innocents’ Day
This day is known as Childermas or the Innocents’ Day, and the Feast of the Innocents is a Christian feast held in remembrance of the massacre of young children in Bethlehem by King Herod, who in his quest to kill the infant Jesus ended up murdering several newborns.
Day 5: Dedicated to Saint Thomas Becket
This day is dedicated to Saint Thomas Becket, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London and Thomas à Becket. He is regarded as a saint and martyr by both the Anglican Communism and the Catholic Church.
He had disputes with Henry II, King of England, over the privileges and rights of the Church and was murdered by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. He was later canonised by Pope Alexander III.
Day 6: Dedicated to Saint Egwin of Evesham
This day is dedicated to Saint Egwin of Evesham. He was a Benedictine monk, and later became the third Bishop of Church of England Diocese of Worcester in the Province of Canterbury.
It is said that he struggled with the local population of the town over the acceptance of Christian morality, especially Christian marriage and clerical celibacy.
Day 7: New Year’s Eve
On the New Year’s Eve, Pope Sylvester I who was the Bishop of Rome in the 4th century is traditionally celebrated. He was one of the earliest popes and in some eastern and central European countries the day is called Silvester.
Day 8: Dedicated to Mother Mary
This day is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mother Mary was a Galilean Jewish from Nazareth, according to the New Testament. Mary is also referred to as the Virgin Mary, as it is believed that she conceived Jesus miraculously through the Holy Spirit without her husband’s involvement.
Day 9: Dedicated to Saint Basil and Saint Gregory Nazianzen
This day is dedicated to Saint Basil and Saint Gregory Nazianzen, two important figures from the 4th century. Both Basil and Gregory are said to have rebuilt the faith during the Arian Movement.
The Arian Movement promoted the non-trinitarian Christological doctrine which asserts the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and thus, he is a being subordinate to Him, but the Son is also a God.
Day 10: Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
Third of January is the day of the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. It is a feast of the liturgical year celebrated by several Christian denominations to commemorate the day when Jesus was officially named in a Jewish Temple.
Day 11: Dedicated to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first American saint who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. She was canonised by the Roman Catholic Church. Saint Seton established the first Catholic girls’ school in the nation in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In the school, she also founded the first American congregation of religious sister, the Sisters of Charity.
Day 12: Dedicated to Saint John Nepomucene Neumann
The day celebrates Saint John Nepomucene Neumann. He was a Bohemian Catholic priest who immigrated to the United States in 1836. where he was ordained and later joined the Redemptorist order, which is a religious congregation of the Catholic Church dedicated to missionary work. He later became the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia.
He is the first American bishop and to date the only male American citizen to be canonised.