The twelve days
of Christmas have traditionally been celebrated by Christian and Pagan
alike. These are the days from December 26th to January 6th and often
include the 24th and 25th of December, actually making the total
fourteen. These days are actually believed to be a time when the veil
between the worlds is lowered and you can easily see the dead.
Supernatural experiences are likely to happen. Here are some of the
ways in which you can remember these twelve special days.
Day 1 - Boxing Day, Day of the Wren
The name "boxing day" originated by the British custom of
giving a Christmas box to servants on the 26th. The Day of the Wren has
a bit more of a gruesome tone to it. The Irish and British believed it
unlucky to kill a wren on any other day than on this one. The people
would go out to hunt the wren and then display it's body for the
villagers to see. The wren was believed to be the King of the birds.
The French started this custom in a time when their kings were killed
after only one year in service. The person who was first to kill a wren
would become the king of the feast of fools.
Day 2 - Mother Night
The second day of Christmas is the day of Mother Christmas. She is
often depicted as a woman in long flowing white gowns. She has been
given various names, Frau Holle, Mother Carey, and Frau Gode are among
a few of them. She is associated with the Mother Goddess who brings
abundance, fertility, and justice. The Christians tried to replace her
with the Virgin Mary and have almost succeeded.
Day 3 - Childremass
The third day of Christmas was believed to be an unlucky day in that no
task that was begun on this day would ever be finished. It was also a
curious day in that it was permissible to beat your children on this
day. The idea was that if you beat them on this day they would not have
to endure beatings for the rest of the year. They extended this idea
further by allowing wives to beat their husbands or servants to beat
their masters. Using fresh rosemary or birch branches they would
exchange gentle blows with the idea that by doing this now, they would
divert any real anger for the year to come.
Day 4 - The Feast of Fools
The fourth day of Christmas was a true day to let off steam. The
restrictions of the Church were raised for the day and roles could be
reversed. People acted out in abandoned ways. A King of Fools was
chosen and he was to act as foolishly as possible, insulting and
chasing women and girls and wearing outlandish clothing.
Day 5 - Bringing in the Boar
The Boar is the traditional fare for the Christmas table. It is viewed
to be sacred to the Celts and most likely represents a much older
tradition. The Scandinavians believed that the god of sunshine rode
across the sky on a boar with golden spikes. The boars were extinct in
Britain by the twelfth century but the tradition of passing the boar
has continued until recently.
Day 6 - New Year's Eve, Hogmanay
This day is
believed to have been celebrated by the Druids by cutting mistletoe and
passing it out among their people. Mistletoe was believed to be sacred
and the cutting was to acknowledge the end of the old year and the
beginning of the new. Another truly inspired tradition was practiced by
the Scots. The people would gather branches of juniper and fresh water
in the evening. The next morning drops of the water were sprinkled
throughout the house and the then dried juniper was set on fire and
used to fumigate every corner of the house in an act of acknowledging
the new beginning.
Day 7 -
New Year's Day, The Kalends of January
the day of the Wassail. Since Saxon times trees have been wassailed to
ensure that evil spirits would not attack the orchards and the crops
would be good for the coming year. The tree was wassailed by pouring
cider on its roots and placing cake on its branches. Loud noises were
then made and songs were sung. The wassailer would then go and collect
alms and good wishes for the coming year.
Day 8 - Snow Day
There is no festival associated with this particular day. So we set
today aside for appreciating snow. A story is told that midwinter snow
is really feathers that have shaken free from Mother Christmas's
bedspread. The snow brightens even the grayest of winter days.
Day 9 - Evergreen Day
Again, no festival is associated with this day. We set this day aside
for the appreciation of the evergreen. The beauty of these plants is
enjoyed year round and is especially necessary in the depths of winter.
Day 10 - Rock Day
This is the day when most would get back to their everyday
lives and start working again. The women would have to start spinning
cloth for their families. To make the day more fun than not, the young
men would try to set the already spun cloth on fire while the women
would throw buckets of water over the young men. This was also a day
set aside for looking to the future and divining what the New Year
Day 11 - Eve
The religious connotations of this
day are many. Although the number and identity of the magi who were
believed to come in search of a child were unknown, their purpose was
clear. This purpose is still carried out today in our own lives as we
go forward looking for truth. This is a perfect day to look at our
gifts both tangible and intangible, given and received.
Day 12 - Twelfth Night-Epiphany
This is the day where all of the festivities came to an end.
The decorations were all taken down. If something was overlooked, it
was believed that it would become a goblin. This day was celebrated
with triumph and a cake was usually baked with a bean in it. The person
lucky enough to find the bean in their piece of cake would then lead
are only a few traditions that celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Choose which work for you and enjoy.
The above ideas were adapted from
The Winter Solstice - The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John