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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas - Twelve Drummers Drumming

With the twelfth day we have reached the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas carol and have arrived at the last day of Christmas which is known in England as Twelfth Night on which the partying and feasting continued.

Twelfth Night is the night before Epiphany which is the day the three Wise Men, also known as the Three Kings or Magi, from the East arrived in Bethlehem bringing gifts to the Christ child.

By the Middle Ages the drum, which was probably introduced to Europe from the Middle East by knights returning from the Crusades, had become a common instrument.

Among the drum's other uses was to combine it with the trumpet to get people's attention when making a big announcement such as the arrival of the king or the reading of an important proclamation. In this case the drum was used to announce the serving of the next course of the feast.

Other customs in England as well as France and other West European countries was the making and serving of a special Kings' Cake for this twelfth night celebration (the practice of making and serving a special King's Cake survives today in the U.S. as a part of the Mardi Gras celebrations.

The song and the twelve day celebration have now come to an end. But it is not the end of the season. For the day after Twelfth Night is the Feast of the Epiphany, another religious holiday associated with Christmas. While mainly just a religious observance in the U.S., Epiphany is also a day of both religious and secular celebrating in other countries.

While the solstice having passed and the days slowly beginning to lengthen again, winter still held the land in its grip.

The work of the peasant and noble at this time was light as it was still too early to begin planting while the the cold and short days remained. These provided an incentive to stay inside and party.

While the twelve days of Christmas celebrating may have been over, the party season continued, with Epiphany and beyond through the season of Mardi Gras up until Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season.

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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas - Twelve Drummers Drumming

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Twelve Drummers Drumming

  • On the First Day of Christmas
    Why a partridge in a pear tree? A partridge is not a small bird that can be easily placed in a cage in the kitchen. And the song pre-dates dwarf fruit trees so we are talking about a good sized tree which...
  • On the Second Day of Christmas
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  • On the Third Day of Christmas
    Dec 20, 2006 (updated 12/27/2010) The three French Hens probably refer to a variety of chicken from France. There are many varieties of chicken and in the period during which this carol developed there were...
  • On the Fourth Day of Christmas
    In the discussion dealing with the Partridge in a Pear Tree in the first stanza of the song it was pointed out that the gift of a partridge in a pear tree may have come about because of a mix-up between French...
  • On the Fifth Day of Christmas
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    Geese were among the first birds to be domesticated. Our Neolithic ancestors discovered that, rather than spending days searching for animals to kill or nests to rob, it was easier to capture them live and...
  • On the Seventh Day of Christmas
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  • On the Eighth Day of Christmas
    The eight maids a-milking addresses two of the major themes of fifteenth and sixteenth century English celebrations and parties during the Christmas holidays food and romance. What is a feast or...
  • On the Ninth Day of Christmas
    The nine ladies dancing evokes images of music and dancing which were a big part of the celebrations at this period of history in England. The term ladies probably refers to noble ladies as in a Lord and his...
  • On the Tenth Day of Christmas
    December 21, 2006 The ten lords a-leaping most likely refers to leaping dancers (called morris dancers) who performed leaping dances between courses at feasts. This type of wild and strenuous dancing...
  • On the Eleventh Day of Christmas
    At the big feasts held during the holiday celebrations the guests were often entertained by musicians, dancers, jugglers, etc. as well as singing and dancing themselves. Bagpipes and their younger cousins the...

© 2006 Chuck Nugent


mel22 from , on November 14, 2011:

well i havnt read the other eleven days but its interesting none the less!

Chuck Nugent (author) from Tucson, Arizona on December 21, 2006:

Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed it. Now that I have finished that series I will try to find time to write a hub describing my five hour career as a professional shopping mall Santa which is where that picture was taken.

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on December 21, 2006:

This was a fascinating series, Chuck....uhh, I mean Santa. ;-)

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