Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions we get about our 12 Days web site:

When are the Twelve Days of Christmas?
Where did the song The Twelve Days of Christmas come from?
What is the religious symbolism of the 12 days of Christmas?
Where do Candy Canes come from?

When are the Twelve Days of Christmas?

The Twelve Days of Christmas start with Christmas Day and ends with the eve of Epiphany on January 5 th. The Twelve Days of Christmas dates back to English origins in the sixteenth century although the music is reputed to be French. The first publication date for The Twelve Days of Christmas (The 12 Days of Christmas) was 1780.

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Where did the song The Twelve Days of Christmas come from?

The twelve days of Christmas in the song are the twelve days between the birth of Christ (Christmas, December 25) and the coming of the Magi (Epiphany, January 6). Although the specific origins of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" are not known, it possibly began as a Twelfth Night "memory-and-forfeits" game in which the leader recited a verse, each of the players repeated the verse, the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake, with the player who erred having to pay a penalty, such as a offering up a kiss or a sweet. This is how the song was presented in its earliest known printed version, in the 1780 children's book Mirth Without Mischief. (The song is apparently much older than this printed version, but we do not currently know how much older.) Textual evidence indicates that the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was not English in origin, but French. Three French versions of the song are known, and items mentioned in the song itself (the partridge, for example, which was not introduced to England from France until the late 1770s) are indicative of a French origin.

It is possible that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" has been confused with (or is a transformation of) a song called "A New Dial" (also known as "In Those Twelve Days"), which dates to at least 1625 and assigns religious meanings to each of the twelve days of Christmas (but not for the purposes of teaching a catechism). In a manner somewhat similar to the memory-and-forfeits performance of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," the song "A New Dial" was recited in a question-and-answer format.

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What is the religious symbolism of the 12 days of Christmas?
Here is one rendition on what the religious symbolism is for the Twelve Days of Christmas:
1 True Love refers to God
2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Source: http://www.carols.org.uk/

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Where did Candy Canes come from?
Legend has it that in 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany handed out sugar sticks among his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Creche ceremony. In honor of the occasion, he had the candies bent into shepherds' crooks. In 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decorated a small blue spruce with paper ornaments and candy canes. It wasn't until the turn of the century that the red and white stripes and peppermint flavors became the norm.

In the 1920s, Bob McCormack began making candy canes as special Christmas treats for his children, friends and local shopkeepers in Albany, Georgia. It was a laborious process - pulling, twisting, cutting and bending the candy by hand. It could only be done on a local scale.

In the 1950s, Bob's brother-in-law, Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest, invented a machine to automate candy cane production. Packaging innovations by the younger McCormacks made it possible to transport the delicate canes on a large scale.

Although modern technology has made candy canes accessible and plentiful, they've not lost their purity and simplicity as a traditional holiday food.

Source: National Confectioners Association http://www.candyusa.org/

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