We all know the song the Twelve Day's of Christmas when someone sends his lover an ever increasing amount of presents each day but rather than being a countdown to Christmas as most people think, it's the period between 25th December and the 6th January when the clergy of the Middle Age's would gorge themselves in the name of a bunch of Saints and all the sordid practises and debauchery associated with drunk and well fed priests.
In Medieval England, this period was one of continuous feasting and merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season.
The 12 Days each traditionally celebrate a feast day for the following Saints:
Day 1 (25th December): Christmas Day - celebrating the Birth of Jesus
Day 2 (26th December): St Stephen’s Feast Day.
Day 3 (27th December): St John the Apostle's Feast Day
Day 4 (28th December): The Feast of the Holy Innocents for baby's killed by King Herod.
Day 5 (29th December): St Thomas Becket Feast Day.
Day 6 (30th December): St Egwin of Worcester's Feast Day.
Day 7 (31st December): Pope Sylvester I Feast Day
Day 8 (1st January): Mary, the Mother of Jesus Feast Day and Feast of the Circumcision
Day 9 (2nd January): St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen Feast Day.
Day 10 (3rd January): Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus when Jesus was 'named' in the Temple.
Day 11 (4th January): The feast of Saint Simon Stylites.
Day 12 (5th January): Epiphany Eve Feast.
Somehow, over time, the Feast Days got turned into a song and Jesus became a Partridge, Thomas Becket gold jewellery and Mary a milkmaid.
Today's clergy are a bit more refined in their behaviour and twelfth night is now traditionally the date you should take your decorations down but it may be worth considering that when you sit down to to eat your meal on New Years Day, the eight day of Christmas, you are celebrating Jesus's foreskin so probably a skinless sausage or two may be in order.