We’ve all heard of the song “12 days of Christmas”, but did you know that Christians actually used to celebrate Christmas for 12 whole days?
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English Christmas carol that enumerates in the manner of a cumulative song a series of increasingly numerous gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas (the twelve days that make up the Christmas season, starting with Christmas Day).
In Christian theology, the 12 days of Christmas is the period of time between the range between the birth of Jesus Christ on the 25th of December and goes through the coming of the the three wise men (as known as the Magi) on the 6th of January. Then, the four weeks before Christmas are altogether known as Advent, which starts four Sundays before Christmas and finishes on December 24.
The Epiphany is a Christian feast day that is also known as Theophany, the 12th day of Christmas, or Three Kings' Day. It celebrates the revelation of God to man and falls on January 6 and marks the official end to the festive season. The word Epiphany itself comes from Greek and means "manifestation".
The most important event celebrated on this feast is the visitation of the Magi. However, four different events were originally celebrated on this feast:
- The Baptism of the Lord: When the Holy Spirit descended, and the voice of God the Father was heard declaring that Jesus is His Son.
- Christ's first miracle: When Jesus performed His first miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana, revealing His divinity.
- The Nativity of Christ: When the angels appeared bearing "good news of great joy" to the shepherds, who bowed down before Him, representing the people of Israel. (Luke 2:10)
- The Visitation of the Magi: When Christ's divinity was revealed to the Gentiles—the other nations of the earth.
Although it is impossible to determine exactly who these men were or where they came from, the Magi are now known by the names: Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar, where Melchior gave the gift of gold, Caspar gave the gift of frankincense, and Balthasar gave the gift of myrrh.
Together, these Magi represent the three races of men, Europe, Arabia and Africa respectively, descended from the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japeth. Their gifts were both practical and symbolic; meant for a king, and perhaps, in the case of myrrh, foretelling the later Passion of Christ. Gold represented his royal standing, frankincense his divine birth and myrrh his mortality.
The three would have studied astronomy as kings, so the two terms are not contradictory, but rather complimentary. These kings studied the stars and planets, interpreting the meaning behind cosmic events.
We do not know their ultimate fate, but their relics came to Constantinople at some time during the Byzantine era, and were subsequently brought to different locations over the centuries. Today, the Magi, in contrast to the shepherds who represent the outcasts and sinners, serve as a reminder to Christians that the greatest amongst us bowed before Christ in awe and adoration.
At our workshop, we have many Bethlehem olive wood hand carved religious pieces which are produced to help Christians in the Holy Land and around the world share their faith and glory to God in the highest with the best quality. Almost all of our hand carved olive wood Nativity scenes and sets include the Three Wise Men or the Magi.
We, the Bethlehem Handicrafts’ team, are so proud to put the Holy Land in your hand by giving you a variety of the best and the most outstanding original Bethlehem’s olive wood carvings with the best quality made in the Holy Land.