The period known as Christmastide begins with the Feast of the Nativity itself; specifically, with the evening of that first day, through the morning of the Feast of the Epiphany. And so the first day of Christmas is December 25-26, and the season ends with Twelfth Night on January 5-6. Already, you will stop hearing Christmas music on some radio stations, but here at mwbh, the Christmas season is just beginning.
Most of us are familiar with the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and the significance of the symbolism therein. But for those who do not...
Twelve Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
Eleven Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
Ten Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
Nine Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Eight Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
Seven Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and/or the seven sacraments
Six Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
Five Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
Four Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists.
Three French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues.
Two Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments.
One Partridge in a Pear Tree refers to Christ on Earth being crucified upon a tree.
True Love refers to God, who sent his only son to us.
[THIS JUST IN: The use of this song was a "secret catechism" for children, employed by Catholics persecuted in post-Reformation England, is a matter of some conjecture, as pointed out by our correspondent Jeff Miller, who sent us this article from Snopes.com.]
Since 1984, the cumulative costs of the aforementioned items have been used as a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator. This custom began with and is maintained by PNC Bank. Two pricing charts are created, referred to as the "Christmas Price Index" and "The True Cost of Christmas." The former is an index of the current costs of one set of each of the gifts given by the True Love to the singer of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" The latter is the cumulative cost of all the gifts with the repetitions listed in the song. The people mentioned in the song are hired, not purchased.
The original 1984 cost was $12,623.10. The total costs of all goods and services for the 2008 "Christmas Price Index" is $21,080.10. The full report is given here in the accompanying video clip.