The Twelfth Night is what we labour towards during the nights and days of the 12-Days-Christmas.
Below is the result of some of my research:
“It all goes back to the early 4th century Christian church, which believed that January 6 (Epiphany) is the date that Christ was baptized, representing the birth of Jesus’ soul. This was more important than December 25th to them, regardless of the Winter Solstice at the time. It took a few hundred years; but, by the 6th century, the Christian emperor, Justinian, proclaimed Christmas as a public holiday, with 8 days of feasting. Then, by the 9th century, King Alfred of England increased the celebration from 8 days to 12 days. He declared December 25th – January 6th, with the twelfth day falling on January 6. Note: This means the actual night would be the day before on January 5. Confusing, I know.
One tradition for some on Twelfth Night is to go around wassailing fruit trees as a kind of fertility rite. Exactly how this is done had varied from century to century. But, in the 18th century (when the song was created) wassailing was done by pouring cider, honey, spices and pulp from a burst baked apple (all mixed in a bowl) around the trees. The term “Wassail” is taken from the waes hael meaning “be whole” (aka be in good health).
Another folklore claims that a young maiden was suppose to walk backwards around a pear tree three times on Christmas morning. Then she gazes into the branches. She should see the image of her future husband.”
During Epiphany, we celebrate both the three kings’ (or three wise men’s) visit shortly after his birth and also Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. According to the Story, three Magi arrives to the crib bringing gifts to the new born. In sacrament of Babtism, Jesus receives the Holy Spirit.
In my belief, the Twelfth Night marks the receipt of the Holy Spirit. During the time of the 12-days-Christmas, those who follow the holy order laid down by many masters, Jesus Christ being one of them, get themselves ready to receive God. During the 12th night and the next day, the Holy Spirit descends on the faithful seeker and fills him/her with the Light and Sound of the Holy Spirit. The seeker becomes whole again.
I have a different read on the fertility and sexuality symbolism in the Twelve Days of Christmas, suggested above. Unity with God is often called ‘penetration’ and occasionally appears as an act of sexuality in our limited minds. Being united with God may appear to be an act of intercourse and for that one must be fertile or empty in order to receive God, similar to the way a woman receives a man.
In order for the Holy Spirit to fill the faithful seeker on the Twelfth Night, the seeker must have achieved a state of emptiness and receptiveness. What we do (did) during the Twelfth Days of Christmas to empty and prepare ourselves to be able to receive the Holy Spirit.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, the three wise men – named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – followed the star of Bethlehem across the desert to meet the baby Jesus, offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gifts were symbolic of the importance of Jesus’ birth, the gold representing his royal standing; frankincense his divine birth; and myrrh his mortality. Source
In my understanding, the three kings represent the three levels of consciousness we humans live with. They are called many names such as conscious, subconscious and unconscious. They all bring a present that may also be interpreted in many different ways. The important message for me in the story of the three Magi is their long journey and arrival to the birth of Jesus. I see our human consciousnesses arriving to the teacher, bringing presents that show our devotion and submission to the order that Jesus later lay down for all seeker.
I also found that investigating the symbolism of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ song can help us uncover what it is that we can do to support ourselves. Following the guidance of the song we can become empty and open to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.