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The Catholic Meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas

The Christmas season is often a time of joy and celebration, but the Catholic tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas is something special. From December 25th to January 5th (the eve of the Epiphany), the Twelve Days of Christmas are celebrated by many Catholics around the world. This tradition is rooted in the Christian belief of the Incarnation, which states that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and became human.
 
Many Catholics and non-Catholics alike have heard the song about the 12 days of Christmas- and this song actually has a much deeper meaning:
Day 1: On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree. This is a reference to Jesus Christ, the ultimate gift of love given by God.
Day 2: On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two turtle doves. These are a symbol of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, which together form the foundation of the Christian faith.
Day 3: On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three French hens. These are a symbol of faith, hope, and love, the three theological virtues.
Day 4: On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four calling birds. These are a reference to the Four Gospels of the New Testament, which tell the story of Jesus’ life and teachings.
Day 5: On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five golden rings. These are a symbol of God’s infinite love and grace.
Day 6: On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six geese a-laying. These are a representation of the six days of creation in the Book of Genesis.
Day 7: On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming. These are a symbol of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the Book of Isaiah.
Day 8: On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight maids a-milking. These are a symbol of the eight Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.
Day 9: On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing. These are a reference to the nine-fold fruits of the Holy Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23.
Day 10: On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten lords a-leaping. These are a symbol of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Day 11: On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping. These are a reference to the eleven faithful apostles of Jesus.
Day 12: On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming. These are a symbol of the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed.
Other ways the 12 days of Christmas are celebrated are through feast days of deeper reflection that you can find described below.
On the first day, Catholics gather in churches to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus. During the Twelve Days, churches often hold special services and liturgies to celebrate the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, and the coming of the Magi.
 
On December 26th, Catholics honor the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. On this day, they remember the courage and steadfastness of Stephen as he proclaimed his faith in the face of death.
Dec 27th is an important date for Catholics as it is the Feast Day of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. It is a day to remember the life and teachings of St. John and to celebrate his contribution to Christianity. St. John was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and was traditionally believed to have written the Gospel of John. He was also the author of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. St. John is the patron saint of love, loyalty, friendships, and the giving of gifts.
 
On December 28th, Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which commemorates the children who were slaughtered by Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus. This day serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting children and standing up for the vulnerable.
 
On January 1st, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. This feast commemorates the motherhood of Mary, and is a day of prayer and reflection. It is a time to remember the important role that Mary plays in the life of the Church, and to ask for her motherly protection.
On January 6th, the Church celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord. This feast commemorates the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus, and the revelation of Jesus divinity to the world. It is a day of celebration and joy, as we remember the importance of the Incarnation and the hope that it brings to all people.
 
The Twelve Days of Christmas is a time of joy and celebration in the Catholic faith. From Christmas Day to the Feast of the Epiphany, these days offer an opportunity to reflect on the importance of Jesus’s birth and his mission on earth.
While you're still celebrating Christmas, go ahead and print off these FREE coloring pages for your kids to enjoy!
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