The Twelve Days of Christmas (for protestants)
What are the Twelve Days of Christmas?
It is the celebrations and festivals that run from the day after Christmas (December 26th) to Epiphany (January 6th). It is a series of holidays (holy days) that have triggered the phrase “Happy Holidays” during this festive Christian season. Though in many cases, they have been forgotten.
Some hold the tradition that the Twelve Days of Christmas can run longer than 12 days. The reason for this understanding is that some hold that none of the Twelve Days of Christmas are to be permitted on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. For those who hold to this position, the next scheduled day of the Twelve Days of Christmas would pick up on the following Monday. So with the Twelve Days of Christmas, it could be either 13 or 14 days depending on whether one Sunday or two Sunday’s occur in this 12 day period. So the feast of Epiphany could be as late as January 7th or January 8th, as opposed to the traditional January 6th.
Others celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas straight trough having the Lord’s Day coincide with respective holy day. This was common in Scripture. For example, when a Sabbath day fell during a holiday period like Passover Week, they just overlapped but it was denoted as a High Sabbath.
The twelve days of Christmas are not mentioned in Scripture!
This is true, but what is mentioned in Scripture is:
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (Romans 14:5-10)
As Christians, we can utilize a day to the Lord at anytime and are welcome to have festivals and people should not judge. If one opts to refrain, then they need not celebrate, but judgment should not be directed toward non-celebrators either. We both celebrate to the Lord or not celebrate to the Lord—both as servants of God.
In the past, some of the twelve days of Christmas had become tied to local persons or events, harking back to the early church and medieval times. The twelve below is an updated listing utilizing more biblical themes and reformation theology.
What are the specifics of the Twelve Days of Christmas?
Christmas Day – celebrating the birth of Christ
Day 1: December 26th
The First day of Christmas is known as Stephen’s Day (also known as Boxing day)—the first Martyr of the Church after the resurrection and he gave his all as a testimony to Jesus Christ. It consists of the Feast of Stephen. This is a day dedicated to giving to the poor. It is also called “Boxing Day”, in remembrance of giving boxes of food to the poor. Read Acts 6:8-8:2.
Day 2: December 27th
The Second day of Christmas (Apostles Day) remembers the apostles beginning with John the Apostle, “whom our Lord loved” and was present at the Crucifixion. It is customary to light candles on this day because John spoke of light versus darkness in a spiritual sense. It was also a day to bless wine and toast it (in moderation of course). Read Psalm 104:15, Amos 9:13-14, John 2:3-11, and 1 John 1:1-2:3.
- John son of Zebedee and brother of James
- Andrew (Peter’s brother)
- James the son of Zebedee
- Simon Peter (Cephas)
- Matthew the tax collector
- James the son of Alphaeus
- Lebbaeus Thaddaeus
- Simon the Canaanite
- Judas Iscariot, who forfeited his right as an Apostle
- Matthias (Acts 1:20-26) Replaced Judas
- Paul (2 Corinthians 11:5, 2 Corinthians 12:11, etc.)
- Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
- James the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19)
- Jesus is THE Apostle (Hebrews 3:1)
Day 3: December 28th
The Third day of Christmas is Ember Day where we recall the martyrs, particularly the Holy Innocents (those killed by Herod seeking to kill Jesus). It is a day to pray and fast for orphans and children; and to teach people why the modern form of child sacrifice, abortion, is wrong. Read Exodus 1:8-2 and Matthew 3:12-21.
Day 4: December 29th
The Fourth day of Christmas remembers all who have been exiled, murdered, and persecuted for defending the faith against all opposition (Martyrs and Sacrifice Day). It is a time to remember pastors/ministers/bishops, missionaries, Christian leaders (i.e., deacons and elders), apologists, and even previous reformers and Christians leaders back to the reformation and all that they sacrifice(d) to follow Christ. It is a time to encourage current leaders to defend the authority of God and His Word above all others. Gifts can be given to current leaders to show support and encouragement. Read Isaiah 52:7, Romans 10:13-17, and Ephesians 4:11-16.
Day 5: December 30th
The Fifth Day of Christmas, we celebrate Holy Family Day. This consists of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as well as the rest of the Holy Family including Jesus’ earthly family (i.e., James, Jude/Judas, Joses, Simon and His sisters). This is a time to bless our immediate and extended families and pray for them and dedicate them to the Lord. Read Matthew 1:18-25 and Mark 6:3.
Day 6: December 31st
New Year’s Eve is the Sixth Day of Christmas, also known as Hogmanay/Hogmane Day (others have Hoggo-nott or Hoog Min Dag, meaning great love day or Holy Month or Holy Morning—for the looking forward to the first day of the year). This is the day for traditional games like shooting a bow (archery), javelin toss, and in our modern vernacular, shooting contests. Granted this is on our modern Gregorian calendar while different days were the first and last day of the year depending on calendar. To see significant events that occurred on the first day of the first month in Scripture see: Genesis 8:13, Exodus 40:2, Exodus 40:17, 2 Chronicles 29:17, Ezra 7:9, Ezra 10:17, and Ezekiel 29:17-20.
Day 7: January 1st
The Seventh day of Christmas celebrates the New Year and a new beginning, to become a New Creation in Christ. It is a time to share your testimony to your family and friends of how the Lord saved you. Then, communion should follow it. Read Psalm 119:88, 1 Corinthians 1:4-7, 2 Timothy 1:8, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, and 1 Corinthians 11:20-29.
Day 8: January 2nd
The Eighth day of Christmas is the day to call to mind the church fathers (Church Father Day) and how they stayed the course to which the apostles laid the groundwork. It remembers their steadfast proclamation of teaching the good news of Jesus Christ. Try to call to mind certain early church fathers that the Apostles taught and delivered the faith that was to be once for all, [e.g., Timothy (to whom Paul wrote and traveled), Jude (author of Jude and brother of Christ), Clement (Philippians 4:3), Ignatius and Polycarp (disciples of John), Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:6)]. Read Ephesians 2:19-22 and 2 Peter 3:2.
Day 9: January 3rd
The Ninth day of Christmas is the day we celebrate the naming of “Jesus.” This is a day to recall the names of Jesus and the names of God (Mighty God, Elohim, Jehovah, Prince of Peace, I Am, Messiah, Son of God, The Word, Christ, etc.) and their significance it could be called Triune Day, as names of all three persons of one triune Godhead is to be discussed and the Athanasius Creed is to be read after the names of Jesus have been discussed. All of the footnoted items here can be used on this Holy Day celebration.
Day 10: January 4th
The Tenth day of Christmas is Presentation Day or Simeon and Anna’s Day, when Jesus was presented at the Temple on the 40th day and the turtledoves/pigeons were sacrificed (customary for the those who were poor). Both Simeon and Anna saw the blessed Christ Child. It is a day to present ourselves and our children and grandchildren to Lord and ask for forgiveness of our sin (repentance). This 40th day was prior to the reception of precious gifts of the wise men, which included gold, to offer such a humble sacrifice. Read Leviticus 12:1-4 and Luke 2:22-39.
Day 11: January 5th
On the Eleventh Day of Christmas it is a time to remember the shepherds and angels (Angel and Shepherds Day/Epiphany Eve). The angels announced the coming of the advent of Christ to Mary, Joseph, Zacharias and the shepherds who were the first to worship Jesus. It is wise to read the entire account of Jesus birth in both Matthew and Luke. It is also a time to plan for the feast of the Epiphany, which occurs the next day. Read Matthew 1:20-24, Matthew 2:13-19, Luke 1:13-21, Luke 1:26-38, and Luke 2:8-18.
Day 12: January 6th
The Twelfth Day of Christmas is the celebration of the Epiphany—when the magi visited the Christ-child and presented gifts to Him – Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Though this is honored on the 12th day, it was not until after the 40th day when Jesus was presented at the Temple that the Magi arrived. They saw Jesus at a house, not the manger scene and the Holy Family immediately went to Egypt for some time after the Magi to flee from Herod, the king ruling out of Jerusalem. This is the final day of the Twelve days of Christmas and time for great feasting and drinking wine (again in moderation) and presentation of the finals gifts to your family. Read Matthew 2:1-12.
Cite this article: B. Hodge, The Twelve Days of Christmas (for Protestants), Biblical Authority Ministries, December 16, 2015, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/the-twelve-days-of-christmas/.
 God is Triune from Scripture: https://answersingenesis.org/who-is-god/the-trinity/god-is-triune/.
 The Athanasius Creed can be found here: https://carm.org/christianity/creeds-and-confessions/athanasian-creed-500-ad.
 Some names can be found here: http://www.gotquestions.org/names-of-God.html and http://www.gotquestions.org/names-Jesus-Christ.html.