Every year around this time--surrounded by Christmas carols including The Twelve Days of Christmas--I wonder, how can there possibly be twelve days of Christmas? My thought process generally follows a similar path as Bob and Doug McKenzie:
You've got Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And you could count Boxing day, so that's Three. New Year's Eve plus New Years day makes five. But even if you count all the days in between that only brings it up to nine. How do you get twelve? The traditional school break is two weeks, but that's more like sixteen days if you count weekends, so that doesn't work either.
Then I listen to Bob and Doug trying to sing Twelve Days of Christmas, I laugh, and forget the whole thing for another year.
This year I finally decided to solve this problem the way we solve all our problems in the modern world. I took eight seconds to Google it. It turns out the Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, officially starts on Christmas Day and ends with the Festival of Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, on January 6th when, traditionally, king cake is consumed and Christmas decorations are taken down.
Mystery solved. You're welcome.
You may notice counting the days inclusively brings the total to thirteen, but I think it's actually the number of nights that's significant. The timing for taking down Christmas decorations is the only part of this that resonates with my personal experience, but even that 'tradition' seems to be fading. We've been known to leave our lights up until March, and we're not the only ones. I can't deny a thread of laziness here, but it's also an attempt to make darkness at 5pm and freezing cold a little less depressing.
I will leave you with a link to Bob and Doug's rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Lots of gift ideas in there for your Canadian friends ;-)