the 12 days of christmas

the 12 days of christmas is a well-known christmas carol that is basically a melodic listing of 12 days worth of christmas presents received from a true love.

gift giving

to make it fun, the number of the day determines the quantity of presents. the true love gives one present the first day of christmas, two of something on the second day of christmas, three of another thing on the third day, etc. until day twelve. additionally, every day the gifts from the previous days are included again.

12 days of christmas
the 12 presents from the 12 days of christmas (wikipedia)

by modern standards, it’s a weird list of gifts

12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords-a-leaping, 9 ladies dancing, 8 maids-a-milking, 7 swans-a-swimming, 6 geese-a-laying, 5 gold rings, 4 calling birds, 3 french hens, 2 turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree

on more than half of the days, the gift received is fowl (some type of bird). this video from jokes about the frustration of getting birds for four straight days. listen at 1:32 for fowl, and click CC at the bottom of the video to read the captions while u listen

some additional info about vocabulary used in the video…

**pretty as it’s used here in the expression pretty good (:18) means maybe a little better than good. it can be confusing because depending on tone and context pretty might mean very or fairly 🤷🏽

**the graphic at 1:35 says

i kept hoping i was gonna get a new shirt

day 3 of christmas: same red shirt as the first two days of christmas

keep (kept in the past) means maintain or stay; in this case staying positive about the possibility of getting a new shirt, or a few new shirts on one of the days of christmas. unfortunately that never happens.

**listen for these two hypothetical examples in the past (3rd conditional)

i don’t think i woulda picked a pear tree.

two days ago i couldn’t have told u the difference

two turtle doves 12 days of christmaspartridge 12 days of christmas
two turtledoves & a partridge. can u tell the difference? (, 

on the calendar, the 12 days of christmas run from december 25 (christmas day) to january 6. according to christian tradition,  the twelfth day of christmas is known as the epiphany (january 6).  on that day, the baby jesus is visited by three kings, balthazar, caspar and melchior, with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (types of incense). the day is known affectionately in mexico as reyes magos (magic kings) or just reyes and is one of the most important parts of the christmas celebration. in representation of the christmas saga, the three kings bring gifts to kids every year on the epiphany.

if u did the count yourself, u might have come up with 13 days of christmas. there is disagreement about exactly how the 12 days are counted. and if we include december 24 (christmas eve), maybe the biggest christmas party,  the total number of days of christmas could even reach 14 😵

gifts of the magi
a byzantine representation of the three kings taking their gifts of gold & aromatic incense to the baby jesus

exchanging gifts is a standard part of the christmas season,  but12 days of gift giving or even observing 12 days of christmas is a tradition from another time. today we don’t do it in mexico or the u.s.

which day is the most important in your christmas celebration? is gift giving an important part of your christmas traditions? are birds common presents? share your experience under leave a reply 


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