Twelve Days of Christmas are the days from Christmas until the beginning
of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until
January 6th). On the updated calendar — since Ephiphany is celebrated
on a Sunday — these days may be more or less. We have 16 days
on the tree this year because the Christmas season extends until the feast of
the Baptism of Christ and we have decided to include them all.
The origin of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is
related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to
observe this holy day in various cultures. In the Western church, Epiphany
is traditionally celebrated as the time the three Wise Men or Magi arrived
to present gifts to the young Jesus. In some cultures Epiphany is observed
as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings. Even though December
25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, Epiphany is often
the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas
gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.