12 Days of Christmas - Days 1 & 2
Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve are not included in the twelve days of Christmas, so they differ from the advent calendar.
In times past these days were an excuse for prolonged feasting, Nowadays, Christmas decorations are taken down on twelfth night, perhaps in deference to the belief that not to do so would bring bad luck.
The first day of Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. The second day, December 26th, is the Feast of Saint Stephen, a Jew who was one of the first deacons to administer the Church in Jerusalem. Stephen was judged guilty of blasphemy and, became the first Christian martyr who, according to the New Testament, was stoned to death outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem thus becoming the first Christian martyr c. AD 35
Saint Stephen is often represented with either a stone on his head or stones in his hands. Maybe this is why he is the patron saint of builders and bricklayers.
In times past the day was celebrated with mumming plays and sword dances as well as the unpleasant custom of wren hunting, due to the belief that while the saint attempted to escape from prison the little bird began to sing thus betraying him to the prison guards.
There is a “Carol for St Stephen’s Day,” which refers to Stephen, Herod’s servant working in the kitchen the first verse of which is:
“Stephen out of the kitchen came, with boar’s head in hand,
He saw a star was fair and bright over Bethlehem stand,
He cast down the boar’s head, and went into the hall;
I forsake thee King Herod, and thy workes all;
There is a child born in Bethlehem better than we all.’
The other carol, which is well known, and believed to be historical fact, describe Good King Wenceslas looking out of the window and seeing a poor man collecting winter fuel.