“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”
The familiar lyrics of this tune are sung as part of Christmas caroling and holiday celebrations, reaching a crescendo each time singers belt out “five golden rings.” The song is an English Christmas carol that was written in 1720. While it references plenty of gift-giving, it’s easy to assume the song is about giving Christmas gifts. However, the 12 days in the song actually refer to the birth of Jesus Christ.
The 12 days of Christmas, also known as the Twelvetide, refers to the festive Christian season that celebrates the nativity of Jesus. In fact, the start of these days occurs on Dec. 25 and extends until the evening of Jan. 5, the day before the Epiphany, known as Twelfth Night. Each day corresponds to a remembrance of different religious events or people.
Christmas celebrants can celebrate well into the new year. Commemorating the 12 days of Christmas can include small festivities from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5. On Twelfth Night, historically known for parties, modern-day fanfare can mark the culmination of the Christmas season — with the last of gift-giving occurring on the Epiphany.
Gifting, hosting friends and family, attending religious services, participating in charitable events, or opening one’s home to neighbors and those who can use some companionship are all ways to make the 12 days of Christmas more special.