31 Comments

  1. You know quite well what it is, Bill, and Janis better be careful when she sits back down, because the geese have been in on the act as well.

  2. See, I the way I count it, it won’t be Twelve-Lords-A-Leaping until TOMORROW. Today’s just Eleven Drummers Drumming Day.

  3. I imagine the steaming pile in the second panel is just a pat left by the cow. Maybe in the shape of five gold rings on top of each other, as I can’t see them anywhere else. Or a pear tree, for that matter. Or a swan.

  4. Are you familiar with that humorous epistolary version of the 12 Days story? I think I used to run into it only in print, but lately have been hearing an audio, either radio or podcast.

    It’s presented as a series of thank-you notes from a young lady to apparently a would-be suitor. Starting from actual thanks, as the gifts become more elaborate her notes turn agitated and angry over the inconvenience and expense.

  5. Some time in the early 80’s, I was in Boston over the holidays and it was in Faneuil Hall that I watched a live reenactment of this . . . .

  6. except for reasons I honestly have never found a satisfactory answer for, epiphany/12th Night is Jan 6. tomorrow. I’ve tries to come up with reasons that would make sense and … I can’t.

  7. Twelfth Night is the evening of January 5th (if Christmas is Dec. 25), and is a wild party time in the places that celebrate it. San Juan, Puerto Rico is one which a friend of mine happened to be visiting that night. He told me about it this week, and said he was very surprised by it all.

  8. (I don’t know what year he visited San Juan.. I’d be interested to hear how festive the celebration was after the hurricane.)

  9. @woozy: You can account for it a couple of ways. Either 12th Night is Epiphany Eve, just as Christmas Eve is almost more important than Christmas Day in some traditions, or Christmas Day is the 0th day of Christmas and you start counting on Boxing Day. It’s not as bad as getting 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday by not counting the Sundays or whatever it is they do.

  10. DemetriosX, That still doesn’t work. If Dec 25 is the first night and Dec 26 is the first day then 12th night will be the night of the 5 Jan and 12 day will be the 26th and Jan 6 is the night of epiphany but that isn’t the 12th night. That’s the 13th night.

  11. Bear in mind that there have been numerous versions of this song over the centuries, and that the order of the “gifts” changes from one to the other. Also, the melody that we associate with it was arranged by Frederic Austin in 1909.
    He’s the one that created the melodic style shift for the “Five Gold/Golden Rings”. Also note he changed “colly birds” to “calling birds”. Colly means simply “coal-black”.

    The page linked here suggests that all of the gifts were actually symbolic birds, even the drummers, pipers and leapers:
    http://www.icyousee.org/twelvebirds.html

    For farther reading:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_(song)

    Now I’ve got this song stuck in my head again.

    Thanks heaps, guys…

  12. …and I also meant to mention how annoying it is when every year news anchors have to note the total cost of all 12 gifts as some economic barometer, especially when everything is symbolic. 🙂

  13. @woozy: It works. There are two options: 1) Christmas Day is the first day and January 5 is day 12 and counts as Epiphany Eve, like December 24 is Christmas Eve. OR 2) Boxing Day is the first day and January 6 (Epiphany) is day 12.

  14. DemetriosX. Yes but both of those make referring to Jan 6 as a “twelfth night” a bit of a misnomer. if we do “Epiphany Eve” then 12th night is Jan. 5. Not Jan 6. And we do Boxing Day as first full day of Christmas then we have to do Dec. 25th as 1st night preceding the day, that and 12th night is *still* Jan 5. and Jan. 6 is 12th *DAY*.

    Jan. 6 = Epiphany = 12th Night just doesn’t work.

  15. It’s like Jesus dying at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday and rising “3 days” later on Easter Sunday morning.

  16. Bob: Jesus rose “on the third day”, counting Friday = 1, Saturday = 2, Sunday = 3. Edsger Dijkstra wasn’t around back then to insist that everyone start counting at zero. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if there is a Latin word for “zero”.
    Chico: I haven’t eaten in three days.
    Groucho: Three days?
    Chico: That’s right, three days. I didn’t yesterday, I’m not eating today and I’m not gonna eat tomorrow.

  17. Simple answer: Jesus almost certainly did not die on a Friday – it was probably Thursday. The reason for the Good Friday tradition is because the Bible states He needed to be in the grave before sundown because the next day was a Sabbath. So the traditional assumption has been that He was crucified on a Friday, because an ordinary Sabbath begins at sundown on that day. But the first day of Passover is also a Sabbath, and John 19:31 states “it was the Preparation Day, [and] the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day)”. Preparation Day was the day before the special Passover Sabbath. Hence Christ likely didn’t die on a Friday, because that Sabbath would not have been a “high day”. The evidence for Thursday? Women who had followed Jesus wanted to anoint His body for burial, and Luke 23:56 says they “prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” The special Passover Sabbath began at sundown Thursday and went all day Friday. Then the regular Sabbath sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Then they waited till daylight the next day (Luke 24:1 says they went to the tomb “on the first day of the week, very early in the morning”.) So that’s where the three days and nights come from: Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights, all day Friday and Saturday and then on the third day, Sunday, He rose from the dead. There’s a lot more Scriptural evidence for Thursday than Friday if you examine it.

  18. If that’s the “simple” answer, then I’d rather not bother with the complex one. Personally, I think setting the index origin to one is a much more likely hypothesis.

  19. That scriptural evidence really looks more like a retcon and it’s far from simple. The entire eastern Mediterranean world was highly influenced by Greek culture and the Greeks counted inclusively. The Olympic games (and others, like the Nemean and Isthmian games) were held every four years as we count it, just like today. But to the Greeks, it was a five year cycle with the fifth year of the last Olympiad overlapping with the first year of the new. So Friday afternoon to Saturday to Sunday morning would have been counted as 3 days, not a day and a half.

  20. This is what we call a “fencepost” problem, and off-by-one bugs are common in computer programs.

    Think of a fence with three posts labeled “Friday”, “Saturday” and “Sunday”. Three days. But only 48 hours.

  21. History time!

    Boxing day is the first day of Christmas, not Christmas Day. As I explained (over and over and over again) last month to the members of the public – Christmas Day is a religious day for church. Then, with Boxing Day, starts the 12 days of Christmas, a time for merriment, fun, and parties nightly. Gifts are given to children and servants (which, Meryl as opposed to Anne will point out – includes slaves). Carters (fellows who cart goods for merchants) who the husband (meaning the household) has done business with the merchants they work for during the year will come to the house with a small – yes, box – expecting a “vail” – tip – for the past year’s services of delivering items to the house. Anne often adds that her husband says “and so we will not the last delivery he makes during his deliveries next year.” Parties are held nightly by various households and the neighbors invited – on Boxing Day night (at the end of Boxing Day – not the eve of same the night before) someone will have a first night party, someone else on Dec 27 night will have a second night party and so on until a twelfth night party on the night of same. When we are doing the event after Christmas (some years part is before as it was this year) we note which night it is and tell people that we (and they) are there for an “X” night party – X matching the day.

    “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was originally the “Seven Days of Christmas”. All of the first 7 days refer to birds – partridge to swans. Yes, all of the first seven days. Golden rings are birds.

  22. Meant to add – but the song – “The Pig went out to dig” (or as our unit calls it simply -“The Pig song”) is a fun Christmas song of the period, able to be sung as a round and involves various animals going out on Christmas morning and doing things which rhyme with their names.

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