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Christmastide (Twelve Days Of Christmas)

December 25, 2012 by  

Christmastide (Twelve Days Of Christmas), Christmastide (also Christmas or the Christmas season) is one of the seasons of the liturgical year of most Christian churches. It tends to be defined (with slight variations) as the period from Christmas Eve to Epiphany. This period is also commonly known as the Twelve Days of Christmas, as referred to in the Christmas carol of the same name, or Yuletide, as in “Deck the Halls”.

Many Protestant churches add an Epiphany season after the Christmas season, extending the celebration of Christmas for forty days until the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas) on 2 February (or a nearby Sunday). In the Missal and Breviary of the Roman rite, since 1970, the Christmas season runs a shorter period, from Christmas Eve to the Baptism of the Lord, which depending on the place and the year can occur between 7 January and 13 January. In the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the season runs from Vespers on 24 December till Compline on 2 February.

The Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning Christmas Day (25 December). This period is also known as Christmastide and Twelvetide. The Twelfth Night of Christmas is always on the evening of 5 January, but the Twelfth Day can either precede or follow the Twelfth Night according to which Christian tradition is followed. Twelfth Night is followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. In some traditions, the first day of Epiphany (6 January) and the twelfth day of Christmas overlap.

Over the centuries, differing churches and sects of Christianity have changed the actual traditions, time frame and their interpretations. St. Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day), for example, is 26 December in the Western Church and 27 December in the Eastern Church. 28 December is Childermas or the Feast of the Innocents. Currently, the twelve days and nights are celebrated in widely varying ways around the world. For example, some give gifts only on Christmas Day, some only on Twelfth Night, and some each of the twelve nights.

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