Monday, 20 December 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

One the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

The twelve days of Christmas is between the 25th January (Christ's birth) and 6th January (Christ's baptism). All the way back to the 4th century, the celebrations included pagan beliefs such as the burning of the Yule log throughout - it was a bad omen of things to come in the new year if the log burnt out before the 12th day. Indeed, the period of 12 days mapped out originally bracketed a few pagan and raucous roman holidays which were certainly celebrated. It is believed that the the big day itself (25th) was a pagaon holiday and that Pope Julius I chose this day as Christmas day in order to replace pagan with christianity.

Often a Lord of Misrule was appointed during this celebration, turning the powers of the establishment upside down. A servant might be made lord of the manor and preside over revelries, even command the lord to do his bidding... naturally, that servant might take care in exactly how he commanded the lords and nobles, because it wouldn't be long before he was a mere servant again and subject to his lord's will and punishment.

Throughout these twelve days were celebrations of feastings and drinking and games and plays and silliness as well as more seriousn observations such as the lighting of the special mass candle each night and the sermons.

With the industrial revolutions, these 12 days were gradually lost due to increased pressure to work more days...welcome to the present world. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to take 12 days off each year for one long party?

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