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The Actual 12 Days of Christmas

Maria is a master gardener and master of public health. She & her husband, known online as The Gardener & The Cook, live in coastal Alabama.

Photo from our family's Christmas tree.

Photo from our family's Christmas tree.

Retailers Perpetuate the Misrepresentation of this Holy Season

The fact that today's retailers continue to push the two weeks leading up to Christmas Day as "The Twelve Days of Christmas”, has led most of us to believe those are the actual Twelve Days of Christmas. They are not. The fun and comical song, The Twelve Days After Christmas” is hilarious, but only perpetuates the misunderstanding.

We can't blame business owners for wanting to increase profits. Still, it is dismaying that commercialism has hijacked such an important holiday, but that is another topic for another day.

Also Known as Christmastide

The days concerned are actually December 26 through Jan 6. They are also known as "Christmastide". Surprised? Don't feel too badly. Many people have been misled by this advertising gimmick.

Is It True We Should Leave Our Christmas Trees Up Until January 6?

Those of us who truly celebrate Christmastide, and the coming of the wisemen to see the Christ child do leave our Christmas trees in place and fully decorated until January 6 or after. In the secular world, all the Christmas celebrations are before Christmas Day, yet the true celebration (Christmastide) is during the December 25 (the end of Advent) and January 6 (the arrival of the three kings).

The White & Gold Paraments of Christmastide

This photo was taken at our former church, Community United Methodist, in Fruitland Park, Florida, USA

This photo was taken at our former church, Community United Methodist, in Fruitland Park, Florida, USA

Christmastide is the 2nd Season of the Christian Calendar

The twelve days of Christmastide make up the 2nd season of the Christian calendar, preceded only by Advent. The color used to celebrate Christmastide is white and/or gold. Paraments used in worship services are usually white with gold trim and embroidery, as shown in the photo below. This is referred to as the liturgical color. These colors are also used at Easter, and other times during the year.

The 12 Days End at Epiphany (January 6)

Often called "The Feast of the Epiphany" or "Three Kings' Day", the season of Epiphany begins on January 6, the day the three kings (or wisemen) arrived to see the baby Jesus. It is one of the oldest of the festival days of the Christian calendar, and is one of the three holiest days, with the other two being Christmas and Easter.

Green paraments are used in Protestant churches during the long season of Epiphany. Green represents the spreading of the Good News and the growth of the early church.

Paraments for Epiphany are Green

Green is the color of the long Epiphany season that follows Christmastide. This photo was also taken at our former church, Community United Methodist, in Fruitland Park, Florida, USA

Green is the color of the long Epiphany season that follows Christmastide. This photo was also taken at our former church, Community United Methodist, in Fruitland Park, Florida, USA

If this is the Second Season, What's the First Season, You Ask?

Advent is the first season of the Christian year, and is the season leading up to Christmas Day. The season of Advent begins on the first of the four Sundays preceding Christmas, and ends on Christmas Day. This year (2021) Advent will begin on Sunday, November 28th.

Purple or Royal Blue May Be Used for the Paraments of Advent

Purple is the liturgical color for Advent

Purple is the liturgical color for Advent

Advent is All About Preparation

The season of Advent is all about preparing for, and looking forward to the coming event -- the celebration of the birth of Christ. (Yes, we now know Christ was actually born in springtime, but who is going to try to change the date of Christmas.) Christmastide begins the day after Christmas Day, and continues until the first day of Epiphany, January 6. The liturgical color for Advent is purple -- the color of royalty.

Chrismon Trees

Most Christian churches have “Chrismon” trees rather than Christmas trees in their sanctuaries. A Chrismon tree is a regular coniferous evergreen tree (living or artificial), but is decorated with Christian symbols called “Chrismons” which is short for “Christ monograms”.



A Typical Chrismon Tree

This was the Chrismon Tree in the church we belonged to during the time we lived in Florida.

This was the Chrismon Tree in the church we belonged to during the time we lived in Florida.

The Hanging of the Greens

These trees are meaningful to Christians everywhere. They are usually decorated in a ceremony called “The Hanging of the Greens”, in which the sanctuary is also decorated with wreaths and other greenery. This ceremony is done a few days prior to the first Sunday in Advent. The church I belonged to in my hometown near Birmingham, AL, made a fun evening out of this ceremony, and of course, there was food!

The “greens” stay in place throughout Advent and Christmastide. Most Christian churches leave their Chrismon trees in place until after the first Sunday in Epiphany has passed. Because of the fire hazard of live trees that will dry out in the six weeks of the two seasons, more and more churches are using artificial trees and greenery.


This is an updated version of an old article that I previously published on Seekyt on December 5, 2014. It is still there under another person's name, and I am working now to have it removed.

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