Merry Christmas!

Wise Men

So, in honor of Christmas, today’s lesson is going to focus on the Twelve Days of Christmas, and a little holiday in January called Epiphany.

For years I thought that the Twelve Days of Christmas were the twelve days before Christmas, and I think it’s safe to say that many other have believed that over the years. This idea is perpetuated by all sorts of Twelve Days of Christmas sales and TV specials and whatnot. The truth is, the Twelve Days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas Day. In Western Christmas tradition, the Twelve Days begin on the evening of December 25th and end on the morning of January 6th.

So, now that that’s straightened out, the question is: What are the Twelve Days of Christmas for? Are they just a continuation of Christmas Day? Or do they have their own meaning? Well, the tradition varies greatly by region and culture, but essentially, the Twelve Days are a festive time period connecting Christmas and Epiphany. So what is Epiphany? Epiphany is a holiday that falls on or around January 6th depending on culture and region. In Western Christian churches, Epiphany commemorates the day the Wise Men (AKA the Magi or the Three Kings, etc.) arrived to see Jesus which, contrary to popular belief, was not believe to be on the night of Jesus’ birth, but rather about two years later. Alternatively, in Eastern Christian churches, Epiphany commemorates the day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.

The celebration of Epiphany varies greatly from country to country, but it frequently involved religious ceremonies and feast. The tradition that interests me most as a Spanish major, is the tradition of Epiphany in Spain. In Spain, Epiphany is known as “El Día de los Reyes” meaning “The Day of the Kings.” In Spain they celebrate the arrival of the Kings with parades, and often enjoy a special bread or cake. Also, this is traditionally the day that children receive their gifts, as opposed to Christmas Day (although in modern culture it is common for children to receive gifts on both days). On the eve of January 6th, children polish their shoes and leave them out, and much like Santa leaves gifts under the Christmas tree, the Kings leave the gifts under the children’s shoes.

Now, before I let you go, I thought I’d share with you one more interesting tidbit about the Twelve Days of Christmas: Every year since 1984, PNC Wealth Management has calculated the total value of the gifts given in the Twelve Days of Christmas song. This year, the total value adds up to $25,431.18, which is the first time the value has exceeded $25,000. For more information on the PNC Christmas Price Index, as well as a fun little activity, visit the PNC website here.

Well, this concludes today’s special Christmas lesson. For more information of the various Epiphany traditions, you can check out the Wikipedia page, here. And finally, for a special Christmas treat, click here.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Learning!

-Lizzie

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