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Twelve days of Christmas

Twelve Days of Christmas at McMullen House

Picture of the McMullen House Sideboard 2019
              Dining Room Sideboard at                              McMullen House 

 Each year McMullen House Bed & Breakfast puts out a display of the twelve days of Christmas.  These displays are shown throughout the house and each they are in different locations so visitors can search for them each year.  

History of the Twelve Days of Christmas

The period of the Twelve Days run from Christmas (December 25th) to the Epiphany or Three Kings Day (January 6th), which correspond with the birth of Christ and the coming of the Three Wise Men.

Picture of an old town at Christmas
Image by Peter Wolf from Pixabay

This period was declared a religious holiday in 567 AD and was a time of feasting for all social classes.  The origins of the carol date back to the 13th century and is the only carol known that celebrates gift giving at Christmas.1  The carol was often handed down through oral tradition, but in 1780 it was printed in England.  The printed version is thought to be French in origin.  The idea that the song originates from persecution of Catholics in England has been discredited by some,2, 3 and who state it was a memory game on the twelfth night.  However, Catholic states that there could be some credibility to it.4

Each Day Celebrates a Feast of Saints

Each day of the song except the first day, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, corresponds to a Feast of Saints.  The feasts are listed below and will be discussed further in separate post on the corresponding day.  The meaning from the song is given after.3

  • St. Stephens Day or Boxing Day (Second Day on December 26th)–The Old and New Testaments
  • St. John the Apostle (Third Day on December 27th)–Faith, Hope and Charity, the theological virtues
  • Feast of the Holy Innocents (Fourth Day on December 28th)–the Four Gospels
  • St. Thomas Becket (Fifth Day on December 29th)–the Five Books of the Old Testament
  • St. Egwin of Worcester (Sixth Day on December 30th)–the six days of Creation
  • Pope Sylvester I (Seventh Day on December 31st)–the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (seven sacraments)
  • Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Eighth Day on January 1st)–the eight beatitudes
  • St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Naiziazon (Ninth Day on January 2nd)–the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  • Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (Tenth Day on January 3rd)–the ten commandments
  • St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Eleventh Day on January 4th)–the eleven faithful apostles
  • Epiphany Eve- St. John Neumann (Twelfth Day on January 5th)–the twelve points of the doctrine in the Apostles Creed

1st Day of Christmas at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast

Picture of the First Day of Christmas 2019
      1st Day–Partidge-in-a-Pear Tree

The 1st Day of Christmas is depicted with a partidge-in-a-pear tree and stands for the birth of Jesus (“the one”).  It is located in the dining room.

Last Day (Epiphany)

The night of the last day is a time of big celebration and marked the end of winter.  In Italy, Pannetone, the old Twelfth night cake, is eaten.


1Brett, Jan.  1989.  The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Penguin Group.  32 pages.

2: Twelve Days of Christmas Explained

3: Fact Check: 12 Days of Christmas

4: Catholic Culture: Liturgical Year

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