Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas - The Original 12 Days


"The Twelve Days of The New England custom during those early years of the present century was to observe Christmas from December 25 to January 5, the twelve days being generally given up to receiving and returning family visits. Contemporary with this custom was the belief inculcated in the minds of the children that if they would visit the cow stables at midnight of Christmas eve, they would see the cattle kneel before the mangers.

". . . On the night or eve of Old Christmas, January 6th, perhaps better known as Twelfth Night, the cattle in the stable kneel down and pray. One informant positively asserted the truth of this belief, because in order to test the matter she had once gone down to the stable on this night, and sure enough she found the cows kneeling on the ground and making just the masterest moanin'."

A poem of the twelve days shows the gift for the first day of Christmas to be a parrot on a juniper tree, instead of a partridge on a pear tree. The verse for the twelfth day which embodied the entire list of days and gifts was as follows. The twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve guns shooting, eleven bears chasing, ten men hunting, nine fiddlers playing, eight ladies dancing, seven swans swimming, six chests of linen, five gold rings, four coffee bowls, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a parrot on a juniper tree." JOHN RODEMEYER JR NYS