12 Days of Christmas

Today is the day after Christmas and the start of the 12 days of Christmas between Christmas and Epiphany. I have in the past felt that all the trouble with what to buy for Christmas and braving the crowds was somewhat of a let down after 4 hours on Christmas morning. However, I am sure that we all enjoy our gifts and the buying of gifts is good for the economy also.

I have reread the part in my book Holidays and Holy Nights by Christopher Hill about the Epiphany. Evidently the 12 days has roots in  several sources in the ancient calendars. First, and most ancient is the 12 days that ancient calendars added to the year after 12 lunar months of 29 and a half days to make up a solar year. Second, and related was the actual difference between the Roman calendar and lunar calendar of the east, which in the first century resulted in Epiphany being established 12 days after the corresponding day in the Roman calendar.

So we can extend the Christmas spirit for 12 days to the day that is traditionally associated with the arrival of the magi bearing gifts for Jesus. This time is often associated with festivities of the return to time before the laws, and in the courts of 16th century of masks where people would disguise themselves in plays and dances.

The magi may have originally been priests of Zoroastrianism, but came to symbolised  by one white, one black, and one brown wise man  representing the the knowledge of all the world.