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On the first day of Christmas...

"... (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son." Luke 2.7

The simple beauty of this event is conveyed in 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' carol, through the image of a partridge in a pear tree: Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary. Mystery surrounds the origin of this carol. According to one story it was conceived as a teaching aid for Catholics during the years of proscription following Queen Elizabeth I's Act of Uniformity in 1559, which outlawed the Catholic Mass. Whatever its actual origin, the carol offers us a musical map through the liturgical season of Christmas which runs for 12 days from Christmas itself.

The season of Christmas is sandwiched between Advent, when Christians prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus, and Epiphany, when we marvel at how God's glory is revealed in Jesus. Taken together Advent, Christmas and Epiphany present Jesus as both human and divine, as having come and coming again - the first time in humility and the next in glory. No wonder the angels sing: Nollaig Chridheil, Happy Christmas indeed!



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