ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Updated on December 21, 2016
Chuck profile image

Chuck enjoys celebrating holidays with his family. This has led to an interest in researching & writing about holidays & their traditions.

A Christmas Carol from the Middle Ages

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a popular carol that dates back to the Middle Ages.

Being much older than other popular Christmas carols, this one appears to have evolved rather than being composed and written at one time. In fact the words to this carol were not put to paper until about 1780 when it was published in London along with other popular rhymes in a book called Mirth without Mischief.

Further, while parts of the carol may have been religious in origin, the carol itself and the celebration it describes are a part of the secular celebration of Christmas.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, most major holidays have been religious holy days that have always been observed by a combination of religious worship and secular feasting and celebrating.

Despite the fact that the carol and its imagery are clearly secular, some do associate parts of the carol with religious symbolism and there is even a theory that the carol itself is a mnemonic used by Catholics in England during the 17th and 18th centuries to teach the faith to their children during a period when the Catholic Church was outlawed in England.

Carol Refers to the 12 Days Between Christmas Day and Eiphany

The Twelve Days of Christmas refer to the twelve days between Christmas Day and Epiphany which is the day the Christian Church celebrates the visit of the Magi or Three Kings to see Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem.

The twelve days usually start on Christmas Day and run through January fifth, the eve of Epiphany. However, there are some variations.

In times past people calculated the days as running from sunset to sunset rather than midnight to midnight as we now do. In this case the twelve days started on Christmas Eve. Some others have counted the twelve days beginning with December 26th and running through Epiphany itself.

Like other Christmas customs, the twelve days of Christmas evolved from local customs and holidays that often pre-dated Christianity and Christmas. We can see this even in the present as the way we celebrate Christmas is changing and growing as society changes.

Some customs and traditions become outdated and disappear, while some change with the times and new ones emerge. For instance, modern central heating has eliminated fireplaces making it impossible to burn a log for twelve days, but Yule logs today have evolved into a log-shaped cake to be eaten during the holidays. St. Nicholas has become Santa Claus and has moved from Turkey to the North Pole, and so on.

Like Christmas traditions, the stories and myths surrounding this carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, have grown and changed and the carol continues to change over time. In the hubs that follow, each of the twelve days will be explained separately.

© 2006 Chuck Nugent


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • CarolineChicago profile image

      Caroline Paulison Andrew 

      8 years ago from Chicago, IL

      An amazingly written hub on the the 12 days. Great job. Definitely learned something today. Thank you.

    • dc64 profile image


      11 years ago

      I am so interested in stuff like this! Great site, and I learned something today I had no idea about. Debra

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      12 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Paul, thanks for the link and glad you enjoyed the hub. I believe the Wall Street Journal had a feature article on Jacquie Lawson and her cards a couple of years ago. I can see why her card line is so successful - the card in the link was stunning.

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 

      12 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Interesting, Chuck!  Thanks for the background information.  Here's a cute site about the song:

      Our daughters loved it.  Happy Holidays! Oh... I love the Santa pic, too. ;)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)