days of christmas

My true love sent to me: twelve drummers drumming. In the original, religious-allegory song it may refer to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed. Well, that is as good a guess as any.

Everyone has heard of Twelfth Night, but there is plenty of confusion about when it is. Interestingly, it is only in modern times that we consider 25 December as the First Day of Christmas, and Twelfth Night the evening of 6 January. In earlier times, the 24-hour cycle that we call a 'day' was considered to start at sundown, with a period of darkness, followed by the associated period of light. Christmas – or Christmas Eve – would therefore start as the evening of 24 December began. The First Day of Christmas would start, in turn, at sundown on 25 December, and continue until sundown on 26 December. Follow it through and you find that Twelfth Day is actually what we would call 6 January, and Twelfth Night the evening before.

Or so they tell me. Whatever the realities, Twelfth Night traditionally marks the end of the midwinter festivities and the return to normality. Hence William Shakespeare's play with its exuberant and riotous characters. Today, normality is resumed. The trouble is that these days, political normality is just as bizarre as any Shakespearian revels. It can be hard to know where public policy ends and insanity begins. Perhaps that is because there is so much overlap. Enjoy your return to reality, such as it is.

Read the rest of Eamonn's twelve days of Christmas series:

First; second; third; fourth; fifth; sixth; seventh; eighth; ninth; tenth; eleventh; and twelfth.