The Twelve Days of Christmas last from Boxing Day (December 26)until Twelfth Night or Epiphany(January 6). In the Middle Ages special observations marked each of the days.
Today, the 12 days are simply an extension of the festive season when parties, concerts and traditional events can still have a link with the holidays. You know they're over when Christmas trees appear on the streets waiting for the rubbish collection - Twelfth Night is the traditional day to discard that evergreen.
Meanwhile, here are some ideas to help you enjoy the UK's extended holiday celebrations during the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Nobody is quite sure why the British celebrate Boxing Day. Or, to put it another way, everyone is certain but everyone has a different explanation. Nevermind - it's an excuse for an extra national holiday
and yet another chance to visit relatives, eat holiday goodies and walk it all off with some eccentric outdoor activities. You can go for a brisk walk any day of the year. Boxing Day is when outdoor activities tend to be combined with such bizarre events as rubber duckie races, beagling
and winter dips in the ocean. It's also a time for major sporting events - from horse races to premiership football.
The January Sales are legendary. People camp out overnight for the first day of the winter sales at the best stores. Harrods and Harvey Nichols start, traditionally, on the 2nd day of Christmas, Dec. 27. Selfridges and Liberty jump in a day earlier.
Why the fuss? Britain's top shops used to limit sales to January and July. The rest of the year, it was full price all the way. Today, you can find a sale rack or two at any time of year. But the big, bi-annual sale events are special - with gaspingly good prices on everything. Find the best bargains in the priciest stores - like these:
After all that running around, feasting, partying and commerce, it's probably about time to feed your mind and your senses a bit. Why not take the whole family to a concert, the ballet or the opera. There are loads of light family favorites around this time of year - just the sort of thing to introduce children to classical music.
In 2012 for example The Royal Opera, Covent Garden plans
s are a particularly British form of mid-winter family entertainment. From mid November to mid February, professional and amateur companies all over the country engage in this raucous form of musical comedy. It features a cast of stock characters including camp, cross dressing Panto Dames, heroes played by girls, sidekicks, ugly sisters, topical songs and lots and lots of audience participation. Ooh
no it doesn't!...Ooh
yes it does!...Ooh
no it...You'd better read about Pantos
to find out more.
Then, Check out a list of this season's Pantos around the UK.
5th Day of Christmas:Skate Rings Around Each Other
Not five gold rings, more like silver actually...There seem to be more city center ice skating rinks every year, most of them surrounded by twinkling lights, stunning urban architecture, Christmas trees, seasonal music and stands selling hot chocolate, mulled wine and sausage rolls. Lately, the more environmentally conscious communities are using glycol chilling systems to make ice at lower temperatures and use less energy.
Dress up warm, take your sweetie, your family or a bunch of pals and try one of these:
Up in Scotland, New Year's celebrations go on and on - for four days actually. There are loads of traditions connected with Hogmanay - the Scottish name for this four day blast - and loads of events, from concerts and torchlight parades to first footing
- which involves a lot of toasting with the most well bred and oldest Scotch.
Edinburgh claims its Hogmany celebration is the biggest New Year's Party in the world. Could be. But if you like your crowds a bit smaller, you'll try one of the many bizarre and dramatic fire festivals that are part of Hogmany all over Scotland.
I wonder if anyone has ever counted how many pubs in the UK are named The Swan? Or variations thereof? Lots more than seven, that's for sure! Nevertheless, we've found seven wonderful country pubs that are a perfect antidote for those New Year's Eve excesses. So have a lie in, dress casually and then swan into one of these seven swans for brunch or lunch. Reservations are probably a good idea for most:
- The Black Swan, Helmsley, Yorks No need to book in our favorite Swan, just pop round for tea or a bar meal.
- The Swan Inn, Denham, Bucks
- The Swan on the Green, West Peckham, Kent
- The Bear and Swan Inn, Chew Magna, Somerset
- The Swan Inn, Fittleworth. Sussex
- The Swan Inn, Swinbrook, Oxon
- The White Swan, Llanfrynach,Wales
8th Day of Christmas:Take the Kids to See Maids a Milking - the Modern Way
There aren't many milk maids around these days and, somehow milking machines aren't anything like so quaint and romantic. But taking the kids to a working dairy farm or activity farm is one way to teach them that milk doesn't actually come from containers. These are open to visitors during the festive season:
Or shake your booty..or kick up your heels..or trip the light fandango. Whatever you call it, it's time to dance. Right about now, nightclubs and live music clubs all over the UK are shaking off their cheesy Christmas twinkle and getting down to the real business of getting down. Find out where to join in:
10th Day of Christmas:Get the Jump on 2013 - Even Lords are Leaping Today
Thinking of jumping out of an aircraft from 6,000 feet? Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound? Maybe not but you could pretend - and get a similar thrill - at one of the new indoor extreme sports facilities.
At Xscape near Milton Keynes, in the Midlands, AirKix operates a unique, vertical windtunnel where you ride on a powerful cushion of air to experience the sensation of skydiving without the stomach churning leap. To make it even more thrilling, you can climb into an air-filled sphere and be blown up into the tunnel while spinning around "blind".
Climbzone at Xscape Glasgow operates the world's first Fan Drop. Clip on, take a leap of faith and freefall until powerful fans slow you down, 50 feet below.
...organ Pipes that is
Come out of the cold for an afternoon organ concert at many local UK churches. They're often free or almost free. Find a UK organ recital near you at Organ Recitals.com
Twelfth Night may be when English sticklers for tradition (and killjoys) toss out their Christmas trees, but some Twelfth Night traditions are a lot more fun and certainly worth beating the drums and announcing with a flourish. In the North Lincolnshire Village of Haxey, for example, The Fool, the Lord of the Hood and various Boggins preside over a wild competition called The Haxey Hood. It's a great big shoving match between the biggest men of Haxey and those of the neighboring village of Westwoodside. And, this being England, it is started and finished by the singing of noisy drinking songs and consumption of the drinks that go with them.
Find out more about The Haxey Hood.