Never mind what the retail scene tells you — The Twelve Days of Christmas actually start on Christmas Day, December 25th. The twelfth day ends at midnight on January 5th of each year, followed by the feast of the Epiphany, January 6.
Here’s the symbolism of the 12 days.
The first day of Christmas - My True Love, the Partridge in a Pear Tree. In ancient times a partridge was often used as symbol of a divine and sacred king (“my true love”).
The second day of Christmas – Two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The doves symbolize peace.
The third day of Christmas – The three French Hens are Faith, Hope and Love. These are the three gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The fourth day of Christmas – The four calling birds are the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The fifth day of Christmas – The five golden rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament.
The sixth day of Christmas - The six geese a-laying stand for the first six days of creation.
The seventh day of Christmas - The seven swans a-swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
The eighth day of Christmas – The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.
The ninth day of Christmas – Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The tenth day of Christmas – The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
The eleventh day of Christmas – The eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful apostles.
The twelfth day of Christmas - The twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve points of belief in The Apostles’ Creed.
The good news: you’re to leave your ornaments up until after January 6!