What are the 12 Days of Christmas?

The Bible does not tell us the date when Christ was born. Some celebrate it on December 25. Others celebrate it on January 6. The twelve days in between are called the Twelve Days of Christmas.

At some places, Christians celebrate during the Twelve Days by giving each other one gift every day. That custom is the origin of the famous “12 Days of Christmas” song. The original reasons for the particular gifts in the song, from “a partridge in a pear tree” to “five golden rings,” have been lost to history.

God coming into the world as a human being (Immanuel, “God With Us”) is something worth celebrating more than one day a year. The birth of the Savior of the world has us singing Christmas songs long after the day that we celebrate the Nativity.

The Christians who celebrate Christmas on December 25 usually celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men on January 6, Christmas for the Gentiles. Others celebrate the baptism of Jesus, beginning the Savior’s public ministry.

Americans, interrupted by post-Christmas shopping and New Year’s Eve parties, seem to have lost the sense of two weeks of daily Christmas encouragement that would be so helpful for those who are lonely or sad this time of year. No matter when we celebrate Christmas, we can comfort each other with these words from a Christmas hymn (“O Jesus Christ, Your Manger Is,” CW 40, stanza three):

Dear Christian friend, On Him depend;
Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move you.
For God’s own child In mercy mild
Joins you to Him—how greatly God must love you!