“How many days of Christmas?” is a question which might be answered in various ways, like that of the nursery pilgrims, “How far is it to Babylon?” It all depends on your position and whether Old World customs are still observed in the home or community. Christmas of old was a much longer season, with many special days both before and after December 25, but here in America it mostly begins on Christmas Eve and ends with a New Year’s celebration. However, many people, even those who do not observe it in any way, have a certain wistful sentiment for Twelfth-night, and often keep their Christmas trees in order to enjoy their beauty and fragrance a few extra days.
Candlemas, the feast of the Purification of the Virgin on February 2, and Christmas are linked in an old Scottish weather forecast,more romantic than the one we are familiar with:
“If Candlemas Day be bright and fair,
The half of winter is to come and mair:
If Candlemas be wet and foul,
The half of winter’s gone at Yule.”
Children love to follow the tradition of forecasting weather for the coming year. It is said that whatever the weather on each day of the Twelve Days of Christmas, so will be each of the succeeding months in the coming year.
With the workday world demanding constant attention to practical affairs, the long Christmastide of forty days is out of the question for most of us, but twelve days out of the year are few enough for the feast of peace and good will and merrymaking, so, if at all possible, plan to have at least “Twelve Days of Christmas.”