How Many Days of Christmas Should You Celebrate? Exploring the 12 Days, Unique Traditions, and More


Christmas is a beloved holiday celebrated around the world, but there remains some debate about how long the celebrations should last. Is it just one day, or should you keep the party going for 12 days? In this article, we’ll explore the history and symbolism behind the 12 days of Christmas, offer fun ideas for each day of the countdown, and look at how other cultures celebrate. We’ll also take a look at some unusual Christmas traditions from around the world. So grab a cup of cocoa and read on!

12 Days of Christmas: The History and Meaning Behind Each Day

The tradition of the 12 days of Christmas dates back to medieval times, and it is still observed by many Christians today. The celebration begins on December 25th and lasts until January 5th, also known as Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day.

Each of the 12 days is associated with a symbolic gift, which you’ve probably heard in the classic Christmas carol. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Day 1: A partridge in a pear tree
  • Day 2: Two turtle doves
  • Day 3: Three French hens
  • Day 4: Four calling birds
  • Day 5: Five golden rings
  • Day 6: Six geese a-laying
  • Day 7: Seven swans a-swimming
  • Day 8: Eight maids a-milking
  • Day 9: Nine ladies dancing
  • Day 10: Ten lords a-leaping
  • Day 11: Eleven pipers piping
  • Day 12: Twelve drummers drumming

While we might assume that these gifts have no other significance than to rhyme with one another in a festive tune, they actually have significant symbolic meanings within Christianity. For example, the ‘partridge in a pear tree’ represents Jesus Christ, while the ‘two turtle doves’ symbolize the old and new testaments of the Bible. The ‘five golden rings’ represent the first five books of the Bible, and so on.

Countdown to Christmas: Fun Ways to Celebrate Each of the 12 Days

Now that you know a little more about the 12 days of Christmas, how can you make the most of the countdown? Here are some fun ideas for each day:

  • Day 1: Start with a traditional Christmas dinner or family feast.
  • Day 2: Watch a movie or read a book about love, like ‘The Notebook,’ or ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
  • Day 3: Cook and bake some French cuisine with your family and loved ones to celebrate the French hens.
  • Day 4: Get creative and make some homemade bird feeders and birdhouses, or get bird lovers some bird-themed gifts like birdhouses, feeders, or birding binoculars.
  • Day 5: Take a day to enjoy each other’s company and go for a hike or walk in a scenic park or reserve.
  • Day 6: Make breakfast for dinner and cook up some delicious egg dishes.
  • Day 7: Create some winter crafts and decorations with your family and loved ones.
  • Day 8: Go ice skating or tubing together if you live in a cold climate, or find an indoor ice rink or roller rink for some fun.
  • Day 9: Host a dance party or take a dance class with friends and family.
  • Day 10: Play some reindeer games like Pin the Nose on Rudolph, or have a trivia contest about Christmas fun facts.
  • Day 11: Host a music jam session or play Christmas tunes together in a sing-a-long.
  • Day 12: Celebrate with a fun and lively drum circle.

These are just a few ideas, of course. The options are endless! Tailor them to your interests, hobbies, and the traditions of your family and cultural background to make the countdown celebrations even more memorable.

The Cost of Christmas: How Much Would the Gifts from the 12 Days Actually Cost?

Now that we’ve explored the history and symbolism of the 12 days of Christmas and shared some fun ideas for how to celebrate, let’s take a look at the cost of the gifts. According to a yearly survey, if you were to purchase all the gifts from the 12 days, it would cost a whopping $39,094.93 in 2020. Ouch!

This cost is a stark contrast to the average spending on Christmas gifts, which The Balance reports at around $740 per person in the United States. It’s important to keep in mind that gift-giving should never be about spending the most money, but rather about showing love and appreciation towards your family and friends. As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts!

Christmas Around the World: How Different Cultures Celebrate the 12 Days

While the 12 days of Christmas are celebrated within Christian traditions, many cultures around the world have developed their unique ways of celebrating during this period.

In Mexico, for example, families celebrate the nine nights leading up to Christmas with Las Posadas, where they re-enact the journey of Mary and Joseph. In the Philippines, some people celebrate the Simbang Gabi, a nine-day novena of mass leading up to Christmas day. In Ireland, a candle is left burning in the window to symbolize a warm welcome for Mary and Joseph as they look for a place to stay.

Beyond the 12 Days: Unusual Christmas Celebrations and Traditions Worldwide

Of course, there are plenty of other unusual and fascinating Christmas traditions around the world. In Japan, KFC is a staple Christmas dish, while in South Africa, many people celebrate with a braai, their word for a barbecue. In Iceland, children leave a shoe on their windowsill for 13 days, and a different Yule Lad visits each night to leave gifts or candy.

The United States also has a few unique Christmas traditions. In some parts of the country, people celebrate with luminaries, paper bags filled with sand and candles, lighting up driveways and walkways. And in Hawaii, Santa arrives by canoe or surfboard instead of a sleigh!


It’s clear that there’s no one right way to celebrate Christmas. Whether you prefer the traditional 12-day countdown, explore unique cultural traditions, or come up with something entirely new, the most important thing is to spend time with loved ones and show appreciation for one another.

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