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When Does The 12 Days of Christmas Begin?

When does the 12 days of christmas begin? Apparently a lot of people do not know.

When does the 12 days of christmas begin? Apparently a lot of people do not know. I cringe when I see people counting down from December 1st, or when I see commercials making reference to the 12 days of Christmas and start their holiday specials on December 14 and begin counting down to December 25.

This is a mistaken approach to the concept. The twelve days of Christmas actually begins on Christmas day, December 25. This is the beginning of Christmastide which is also sometimes referred to as Twelvetide. The 12 days end on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. The Epiphany marks the twelve days of Christmas from the birth of Christ until the arrival of the three kings who came to see the baby Jesus.

There is a variety of traditions surrounding these days. In some cultures, gifts are given on each of the days, as remembered in the well-known song about this period that begins with a partridge in a pear tree. The entire period was also free from any fasting.

Epiphany is actually a more significant holiday in some Eastern versions of Christianity than Christmas Day itself. Even in the West, it has retained some of its importance among some groups of Catholics. In many Latin American communities, gifts are still given on that day in honor of the three kings that visited Jesus. Others mark the end of Christmastide by writing symbols over the door to their home with chalk blessed by a priest.

I grew up Catholic and we always celebrated the Epiphany. We never took down our Christmas tree until after the Epiphany. We also found little gifts in our Christmas stockings on that day which was fun because it always felt like Christmas all over again.

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About the author

Diane Nassy

Diane is a New Jersey-based writer and blogger. She is a wife and the mom of a 9-year-old little boy. Through her blog, she wants to inspire moms to find Zen in their lives while offering practical tips and other valuable information to help families deal with everyday issues. Check out Diane's Google+ profile "

11 Comments

  • Wow! Thank you so much for this. I never knew that. Now I don’t feel so bad that my kids haven’t started their “12 days of Christmas Collage” they normally do…. haha

    Another note, my comment love is going to be linking to Mindy’s Countdown to Christmas CLIPs for homeschoolers. I’ll make sure I send her this link to include in her next one so everyone is aware 😉

  • I was not completely aware of when the true 12 days of Christmas begins I do remember growing up my mom always said our tree couldn’t come down until the 6th of January. She was raised catholic but I never ally knew her reasoning behind it. Perhaps I will ask her.

  • THANK YOU for this! My tree will (probably) come down today, but I always leave it up until January 5 or 6 at the earliest! (Usually it’s up a lot later!) I didn’t think to have little gifts to give on the Epiphany, though, but I will next year for sure. 🙂

  • I also grew up Catholic. As a Catholic, I also recognized that Christmas day (December 25th) isn’t the actual day Christ was born and that instead it was chosen arbitrarily by the Pope to mask and replace pagan traditions celebrating the winter solstice (the very same traditions the Christmas tree itself originated from FYI).

    I recognized that Christ was likely born sometime in late spring early summer and that the Holidays today are an entirely secular commercial tradition headlined by Coca Cola’s Santa Claus mascot.

    All that to say that you’re correct about what the 12 days of Christmas are, but that Christmas itself is incorrectly dated and as such, the 12 days of Christmas actually take place several months later than you state.