Thursday, January 04, 2007

Which one is the Twelfth Night?

So when is Twelfth Night? My mother has always insisted that it is on 6th January. My eldest brother has always had his decorations down by 5th.

My mother has then acused him of not being able to count.......

If you count twelve days from 25th December, it is indeed 6th January. However, if the first day of Christmas is 25th December which most of us would assume it is, then to me it looks like this:

On the first day (25th December:)
of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day (26th December:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day (27th December:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day (28th December:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day (29th December:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day (30th December:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day (31st December:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day (1st January:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day (2nd January:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day (3rd January:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day (4th January:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day (5th January:)of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!


Which makes it 5th January.......

And, on looking up the lyrics for the song, (because I am ashamed to admit that my ageing memory failed me), it talked about the twelfth night being the eve of Epiphany, rather than Epiphany itself. Or, is it that the calendar was changed, during all the Gregorian stuff and as such there didn't used to be a 31st December?

Or is it that you should indeed do as my mother always has done and count up from the 25th. This means though that 25th is not a day of Christmas, which seems a bit daft to me.

In the meantime:

Do I take my decorations down on the 5th for good measure?

Do I wait for the 6th when I will have help because the family is home?

Or indeed, is it bad luck to take them down on 5th, if 6th is officially twelfth night?

Now we really could do with some of the good luck variety this year. So do comment please, and let me know.....

UPDATE.........

I have done some searching around on the net and found that the song may have originated not in England, but in France and that according to the Snopes Website
January 6th is indeed the twelfth day of Christmas.....

In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day.

What's more, for the seriously brief period of time that The French Revolutionary Calendar was used, in France, December did in fact have 30 days.

So if these three websites are correct, and if the song was orginally of French origin around about the end of the 18th Century (from whichever calendar you feel like using)then that makes the twelfth night 6th January after all.

But with our calendar, it's still 5th isn't it? Oh I don't know! What do you think?

19 comments:

Ellie said...

i dont think it is bad luck to take them down early but i didnt last year i forgot until nearly February as they looked so pretty and then my friend came over for a coffee and i asked her to help me take them down and she said that if they are not down by 5th then you have to leave them up all year! (i didn't but have had an awful year) so i would take them down soon?

Ignorminious said...

I've always gone with the 6th, although it does sound like the 5th makes a lot more sense. Still, the 6th is a Saturday, so there is a good arguement for waiting til then. I certainly shall be as there is no way I'm taking all the decorations down by myself!

Sally Lomax said...

Hello Ellie!

I must admit that the one year that we left them up, deliberately, for a number of reasons which would definitely be another blogsworth for another day, we too did have a dreadful year........ So I wouldn't want to risk that again! My mother always said that if you miss twelfth night, then you have to leave them up until Shrove Tuesday!! Given the current state of the lack of needles on the tree, we certainly won't be doing THAT!! :-)

Sally

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Ignorminious!
Well it certainly doesn't seem to have affected my Mum all these years in believing that it is 6th - so maybe it's a question of what YOU believe being the right thing for you?? something like that anyway...

Sally

Kingston Girl said...

I'd say definitely take them down when there are other people around to help. Use whatever logic is necessary to make the day that they are around seem like the correct day!

Sally Lomax said...

Thanks Kingston Girl!

Sounds good!

Sally

Asha said...

I didn't know all these at all, Sally!! As soon as we came back from FL,took down everything,packed and stored in the attic!:))

Oh well..I will remember this next year.It was quite educational,thank you.

Sally Lomax said...

Thanks Asha!
Sally

Clare said...

I don't think it really matters! I think you should go by what feels right / what is most convenient. When do you want to take them down?

I'm here because of your comment on my site about my book...

If you email me (Clare, ClareSudbery, stick "AT", "DOT", "CO" and "UK" in appropriate places) then I can either send you a PayPal invoice by email, or if that doesn't work you can send me a cheque!

Thank for the interest - happy Festive Stuff.

(fwiw I'm taking my tree down some time this weekend - exactly when will depend on when I get around to it...)

Momo said...

It was a very interesting post for me cuz it was the first time I read about the Twelfth Night...in my country we don't count in this way, we don't count at all...anyway I love to find out more about customs...

Beccy said...

I always thought the twelfe day of Christmas was Jan 6th so that's when I'll be taking our decorations down. Tomorrow id Joules birthday so it's nice to keep them up for that.

ChrisB said...

I have always understood it to be the 6th but have to confess in past years to taking mine down earlier to coincide with going back to work. This year there's no rush but they will be down tomorrow and packed away on Sat. So I think its down to the individual belief. The French origins of Twelfth night are very interesting.

enid said...

enid can't be much help either, sorry. but she does know that whether it's the 5th or the 6th, it still irritates the man, because his birthday is on the 7th and he feels as if everyone is stopping being festive on purpose.

meredic said...

Decorations.
Bugger.
I knew I was meant to do.
Is it too late to put them up Sal? Thats the question that really needs asking.


Oh. Sorry for swearing on your blog.

meredic said...

Oh yes.
happy new year.
X

Sally Lomax said...

Well as no-on seems to have strong views on the subject, I think I'll go for the 6th, because then at least we can all do it.

It's not too late for next year Meredic, although according to my superstitious mother, it whould never be before December 1st. God help all British retails outlets then!
Happy Festives to you too Clare!
Glad to have brought something new to you Momo.
Enid - can understand your man, but as the lion said: Life's not fair!
Happy New Year to all of you!

Sally

Ignorminious said...

Well we've just finished taking all ours down, so lets hope the 6th is correct :)

The concept of Twelth Night goes back much further than the song, right back to before Shakespeare wrote his play of that title. It may have been Medieval in origin if memory serves.

However, since the calendar has changed so much, Christmas was moved from September to December, the year is probably wrong and many Christmas traditions are Victorian anyway, I'm not sure how far the 5th/6th arguement really matters.

That's assuming that you even believe that the Son of God was born in the first place of course. Or even that God exists come to think of it.

Sally Lomax said...

We took them down on 6th as we do traditionally........

Seemed the most sensible thing to do, especially as we went to a 12th Night Party!

Sally

Oz said...

Twelfth night is generally considered to be the time between sunset of the 5th and sunset on the 6th. It was also the excuse for a good party and the excuse to play pranks or practical jokes.