“On the 12th day of Christmas …”
In 567 A.D., the Council of Tours ended a dispute. Western Europe celebrated the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, as the holiest day of the season. Eastern Europe celebrated Jan. 6, Epiphany, which is a Greek word meaning “appearance” or “manifestation.” Also called Three Kings Day, it recalled the visit of the Wise Men to Jesus in the manger – his “manifestation” to the Gentiles, as foretold in Isaiah 49:6: “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.”
In addition, Epiphany commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, as recorded in John 1:29-34: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world … that he should be made manifest to Israel. … And John bare record, saying … He that sent me … said … Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”
The Eastern and Western Christian Roman Empire could not agree on which day was holier, so at the Council of Tours in 567 A.D. it was decided to make all 12 days from Dec. 25 to Jan. 6 the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” They were called “holy days,” which came to be pronounced “holidays.”
The Council of Tours also returned the beginning of the year back to the ancient date of March 1st. January 1st was thought to be a pagan date since it originated with Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s solar-based “Julian Calendar.”
Remnants of March being the first month of the year can be seen in the old Roman Latin names of months September, October, November and December:
“Sept” is Latin for seven
“Oct” is Latin for eight (ie. octogon = eight sided)
“Nov” is Latin for nine
“Dec” is Latin for ten (ie. decimal = divisible by ten).
In 45 B.C., Julius Caesar was, in a sense, the first globalist. He wanted a unified calendar for the entire Roman Empire that was under his control. His successor, August Caesar, had his version of NSA tracking – conducting an empire-wide census to count everyone under his control.
The many lunar calendars used for millennia by ancient peoples in the countries conquered by Rome were difficult to reconcile with each other. Rome’s old fifth month, Quintilis, was renamed after Julius Caesar, being called “July.” As it only had 30 days, Julius Caesar took a day from the old end of the year, February, and added it to July, giving the month 31 days.
The next emperor, Augustus Caesar, renamed the old sixth month, Sextilis, after himself, calling it “August.” He also took a day from the old end of the year, February, was added to August, giving that month 31 days, and leaving February with only 28 days. The Julian Calendar inserted a leap day to February every fourth year.
When Constantine became the Roman Emperor, he stopped the persecution of Christians, and, at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., he decided to set a common date to celebrate Easter to help unify the “Christian” Roman Empire.
Constantine’s insistence that the date of Easter be on a Sunday, in the Roman solar calendar, resulted in abandoning the Jewish method of determining the date of Passover, based on the lunar calendar, traditionally beginning the evening of 14th day of Nissan.
The Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 5:7 “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”
Constantine’s act was a defining moment in the split between what had been a predominately Jewish Christian Church – as Jesus and all his disciples were Jewish – and the emerging Gentile Christian Church.
The new date of Easter was set as the first Sunday after the first paschal full moon falling on or after the Spring Equinox, though in actuality it was calculated through the use of tables.
“Equinox” is a solar calendar term: “equi” = “equal” and “nox” = “night.” Thus “equinox” is when the daytime and night are of equal duration. It occurs once in the Spring around March 20 and once in the Autumn around Sept. 22.
In the year 325 A.D., Easter was on March 21. During the Middle Ages, France celebrated its New Year Day on Easter. Other countries began their New Year on Christmas, Dec. 25, and still others on Annunciation Day, March 25.
By 1582, it became clear the Julian Calendar was slightly inaccurate by about 11 minutes per year, resulting in the calculated tables having the date of Easter ten days ahead of the Spring Equinox and even further from its origins in the Jewish Passover.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decided to revise the calendar by eliminating ten days. He set a leap year every year divisible by 4, except for years divisible by 100, unless that year is divisible by 400. It sounds complicated, but it is so accurate that the Gregorian Calendar is the most internationally used calendar today.
Pope Gregory’s “Gregorian Calendar” also returned the beginning of the new year back to Julius Caesar’s January 1st date. As England was an Anglican Protestant country, it reluctantly postponed adopting the more accurate Gregorian Calendar until 1752. When England went on to become the largest empire in the world, it established the Gregorian Calendar for international use. All dates in the world are either BC “Before Christ” or AD “Anno Domini” – meaning in the Year of the Lord’s Reign.
In 1534, England’s Henry VIII made the Anglican Church the country’s established denomination. As in other nations, the government demanded uniformity of religious services and doctrine, and restricted freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and freedom of expression.
During this time, Christian dissenters, nonconformists, separatists, Puritans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Anabaptists, and Catholics fled from England to other European countries or to colonies in America. Jews were expelled from England in 1290 by Edward I and not allowed back in till Oliver Cromwell in 1657.
Dissenters who remained in England practiced their faith in secret, sometimes suffering government persecution and even martyrdom. In 1625, a type of Sunday school catechism song came into use to teach children Christian doctrine, titled “In Those Twelve Days,” where a spiritual meaning was assigned to each day.
In Those Twelve Days (1625)
In those twelve days, and
in those twelve days,
let us be glad,
For God of his power hath all things made.
1. What is that which is but one?
What is that which is but one?
We have but one God alone
In Heaven above sits on his throne. Chorus
2. What are they which are but two?
What are they which are but two?
Two Testaments, as we are told,
The one is New and the other Old. Chorus
3. What are they that are but three?
What are they that are but three?
Three persons in the Trinity,
The Father, Son, and Ghost Holy. Chorus
4. What are they that are but four?
What are they that are but four?
Four Gospels written true,
John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew. Chorus
5. What are they that are but five?
What are they that are but five?
Five senses we have to tell,
God grant us grace to use them well. Chorus
6. What are they that are but six?
What are they that are but six?
Six ages this world shall last,
Five of them are gone and past. Chorus
7. What are they that are but seven?
What are they that are but seven?
Seven days in the week have we,
Six to work and the seventh holy. Chorus
8. What are they that are but eight?
What are they that are but eight?
Eight beatitudes are given,
Use them well and go to Heaven. Chorus
9. What are they that are but nine?
What are they that are but nine?
Nine degrees of Angels high
Which praise God continually. Chorus
10. What are they that are but ten?
What are they that are but ten?
Ten Commandments God hath given,
Keep them right and go to Heaven. Chorus
11. What are they that are but eleven?
What are they that are but eleven?
Eleven thousand virgins did partake
And suffered death for Jesus’ sake. Chorus
12. What are they that are but twelve?
What are they that are but twelve?
Twelve Apostles Christ did chuse
To preach the Gospel to the Jews. Chorus
This may have inspired the popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
An explanation of the song’s possible meanings are:
1. My True Love = God Himself
A Partridge = Jesus Christ (A partridge will feign injury to decoy predators from helpless nestlings – “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities.” Isaiah 53:5)
Pear Tree = Cross and tree of Adam’s fall
2. Turtle Doves = Old and New Testaments
3. French Hens = Faith, hope and love
4. Calling Birds = Four Gospels
5. Golden Rings = Pentateuch – First five books of Bible
6. Geese A-Laying = Six days of Creation
7. Swans a-Swimming = Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
8. Maids A-Milking = Eight Beatitudes
9. Ladies Dancing = Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
10. Lords A-Leaping = Ten Commandments
11. Pipers Piping = Eleven faithful Apostles
12. Drummers = Twelve points in Apostles Creed
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