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Author Topic: 7 days of Christmas?  (Read 928 times) Average Rating: 0
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BasilCan
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« on: December 27, 2006, 08:31:18 PM »

My catholic friend has said to me that, since the Orthodox celebrate the Leave Taking of Christmas on December 31, we actually don't have 12 days of Christmas, but 7 (which really messes up my singing of the 12 days of Christmas). Is he correct?  If so, why do we continue not to fast until January 5th?

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Fr. George
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2006, 09:45:16 PM »

My catholic friend has said to me that, since the Orthodox celebrate the Leave Taking of Christmas on December 31, we actually don't have 12 days of Christmas, but 7 (which really messes up my singing of the 12 days of Christmas). Is he correct?  If so, why do we continue not to fast until January 5th?

Basil

Your friend is kinda right - we do celebrate the leavetaking on Dec 31, probably because of another feast of the life of Jesus (his circumcision) which falls on January 1st.  However, the non-fasting period associated with Christmas continues (as you well pointed out) until Jan 4th, and the 5th is a strict fast day in preparation for the 6th.  The only thing I can think of is this: that the celebration around Christmas is many-layered, just like the Paschal celebration (7 days of Pascha, the Sunday of Anti-Pascha, another 31 days of resurrectional hymns, another Pascha (the leavetaking).

I figure that we have the 7 days of Christmas (one feastday, 5 of the period, and 1 leavetaking) because of the Circumcision, but the entire period is colored by the Birth of the Lord, until the 6th.  (In fact, I had heard that the Orthodox reckoning of the 12 days would be Dec 25th-Jan 4th + Jan 6th, skipping the 5th because its strict-fasting and including the Theophany since the two feasts are so closely tied together historically).

All conjecture, but its the best I've got.

edited to fix bad coding
« Last Edit: December 27, 2006, 09:45:42 PM by cleveland » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2007, 01:36:12 PM »

I wonder if the 12 days is an English custom? That's where the song comes from.  Other than that guess, Cleveland's reasoning sounds good.  The Circumcision is an extension of Christmas, and in the modern Roman calendar is the "Solemnity of Mary," the 8th and last day of Christmas. 

In our pre-feast texts for Epiphany (Jan. 2-5), Christ's birth is still referred to quite often as the lesser of the two feasts. 

I still have no problem singing "Twelve Days of Christmas" though, along with all its various parodies ("and a beer... in a tree"). 
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Aristibule
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2007, 06:33:13 PM »

The 12 days of Christmas is not just English, but a universally Western custom - the 12 days begin with Christmas, and end with Epiphany (which is both the Baptism of our Lord in the river Jordan, and the fulfillment of the enlightenment of the Nations with the coming of the Magi.)

The 12 days and their Western names (in the English use) are:
Dec. 25 Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ/St. Anastasia, Virgin Martyr
Dec. 26 St. Stephen, Protomartyr
Dec. 27 St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (Blessing of Wine)
Dec. 28 Holy Innocents, Martyrs
Dec. 29 St. David, King and Prophet
Dec. 30 Within Christmas Octave
Dec. 31 St. Silvester, Bishop and Confessor/Middle lessons of the Nativity of Our Lord.
Jan. 1   Circumcision of Our Lord
Jan. 2   Octave of St. Stephen, Protomartyr
Jan. 3   Octave of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist/St. Genevieve of Paris
Jan. 4   Octave of Holy Innocents, Martyrs/St. Titus
Jan. 5   S. Edward, King and Confessor, Twelfth Night (Great Blessing of Water)
Jan. 6   Epiphany of Our Lord (Blessing of Houses and Chalk)

I've been at Byzantine rite parishes where they also taught '12 days of Christmas' from Christmas to the Eve of Theophany. Never heard of only 7 days for Byzantine rite, unless it is related to the Western rite custom of the 'Octave' where a feast is celebrated for the 7 days following - 8 days in all, an 'octave'
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"We must begin at once to "build again the tabernacle which is fallen down, and to build again the ruins thereof, and to set it up;" for HE WHO GAVE THE THOUGHT IN OUR HEART HE LAID ALSO THE RESPONSIBILITY ON US THAT THIS THOUGHT SHOULD NOT REMAIN BARREN." - J.J. Overbeck, 1866
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