Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Twelve Drummers Drumming!

So, today is the Last Day of the Twelve Days Christmas!  Tonight is "Twelfth Night" which traditionally has been an evening of celebration, drinking of "wassail" punch and the taking down of Christmas decorations, trees, wreaths, etc.  Often trees and wreaths were decorated with fresh fruit, which is a bit scarce around Christmas time in the northern hemisphere, so part of the festivities included eating of the fruit.

There is some controversy over just which day is the Twelfth Day of Christmas.  In Medieval times the tradition of marking the start of the day was sunset (which is also a carry-over from Hebrew tradition, long before Medieval days).  In that tradition "Twelfth Night" actually came before "Twelfth Day."  Thus, January 6th would be the "Twelfth Day" but January 5th marked the "Twelfth Night."  Twelfth Night was the day to have the "Twelfth Night Party" since sunset on January 6th would then mark the start of Epiphany.  In modern times we mark the beginning of Christmas with the "Midnight Mass" which is when Christmas Day begins on the calendar (12:01am - is Christmas Day).  So counting Christmas Day as the "First Day of Christmas" - takes us to January 5th as the "Twelfth Day of Christmas" and January 6th marks the "First Day of Epiphany."

Is Christmas Over?

For many, January 5th marks the end of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Epiphany - however - in some traditions it is still "Christmastide" until the Candlemas - which is the Feast of The Presentation of Christ at the Temple, on February 2nd (sometimes moved to a nearby Sunday for celebration).  So, if you want to recognize Christmas longer - feel free to embrace this tradition!

Liturgically Speaking

If we base our counting on the Liturgical Year here is how we would follow the seasons:
Season 1:  Advent (beginning 4 Sundays prior to December 25th)
Season 2:  Christmas (Begins with Midnight Mass on December 25th)
Season 3:  Epiphany (January 6th)
Season 4:  Ordinal (Counting) Time (Sundays after Epiphany until Lent begins)
Season 5:  Lent (40 days prior to Easter Sunday, not counting the Sundays, begins on Ash Wednesday)

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