Western Europe celebrated the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, December 25, as the holiest day of the season.
Eastern Europe celebrated January 6, Epiphany, as the holiest day.
"Epiphany" is a Greek word meaning "appearance" or "manifestation."
January 6 is also called Three Kings Day, recalling the visit of the Wise Men to Jesus in the manger -- his "manifestation" to the Gentiles, as foretold in Isaiah 49:6:
"I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth."
In addition, Epiphany commemorates Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, as recorded in John 1:29-34:
"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world ... that he should be made manifest to Israel ...
And John bare record, saying ... He that sent me ... said ... Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God."
The Eastern and Western Christian Roman Empire could not agree on which day was holier, so at the Council of Tours in 567 AD, it was decided to make all 12 days from DECEMBER 25 to JANUARY 6 "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
They were called "holy days," which came to be pronounced "holidays."
The Council of Tours also returned the beginning of the year back to the ancient date of March 1st.
January 1st was thought to be a pagan date since it originated with Roman Emperor Julius Caesar's solar-based "Julian Calendar."
Remnants of March being the first month of the year can be seen in the old Roman Latin names of months: September, October, November, and December.
"Sept" is Latin for seven;
"Oct" is Latin for eight (ie. octogon=eight sided);
"Nov" is Latin for nine; and
"Dec" is Latin for ten (ie. decimal=divisible by ten).
In 45 BC, Julius Caesar was, in a sense, the first globalist.
He wanted a unified calendar for the entire Roman Empire.
His successor, Augustus Caesar, had his version of NSA tracking, conducting an empire-wide census to track everyone under his control.
Ancient peoples, for millennia, had used calendars based on the moon, whose lunar cycles, incrementally shifting through the seasons, served as an enormous generational clock.
As the Roman Empire expanded and conquered nations, these lunar calendars were difficult to reconcile with each other.
Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar, with 365 days, and a leap day at the end of February every 4th year.
Rome's old fifth month, Quintilis, was renamed after Julius Caesar, being called "July."
As it only had 30 days, Julius Caesar took a day from the old end of the year, February, and added it to July, giving the month 31 days.
The next emperor, Augustus Caesar, renamed the old sixth month, Sextilis, after himself, calling it "August."
He also took a day from the old end of the year, February, was added to August, giving that month 31 days, and leaving February with only 28 days.
The most important event in the Christian calendar was Christ's crucifixion as the Passover Lamb on the Jewish Feast of Passover, His being in the grave on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and his Resurrection of the Feast of First Fruits, or as it was later called, Easter.
The Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 5:7-8
"For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
First Corinthians 15:20 "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."
When Constantine became Roman Emperor, he stopped the persecution of Christians, and, at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, he decided to set a common date to celebrate Easter - Christ's Resurrection, to help unify the "Christian" Roman Empire.
Constantine's insistence that the date of Easter be on a Sunday in the Roman solar calendar, resulted in abandoning the original Jewish method of determining the date of the Passover Feast, based on the lunar calendar - traditionally beginning the evening of 14th day of Nissan.
Constantine's act was a defining moment in the split between what had been a predominately Jewish Christian Church -- as Jesus and all his disciples were Jewish -- and the emerging Gentile Christian Church.
The new method of determining the date of Easter was the first Sunday after the first paschal full moon falling on or after the Spring Equinox.
Tables were compiled with the future dates of Easter, but over time a slight discrepancy became evident.
"Equinox" is a solar calendar term: "equi" = "equal" and "nox" = "night." Thus "equinox" is when the daytime and nighttime are of equal duration.
It occurs once in the Spring around March 20 and once in the Autumn around September 22.
In the year 325 AD, Easter was on March 21.
During the Middle Ages, France celebrated its New Year Day on Easter.
Other countries began their New Year on Christmas, December 25, and still others on Annunciation Day, March 25.
By 1582, it became clear that the Julian Calendar was slightly inaccurate, by about 11 minutes per year, resulting in the compiled tables having the date of Easter ten days ahead of the Spring Equinox, and even further from its origins in the Jewish Passover.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decided to revise the calendar by eliminating ten days.
He set a leap year every year divisible by 4, except for years divisible by 100, unless that year is divisible by 400.
It sounds complicated, but it is so accurate that the Gregorian Calendar is the most internationally used calendar today.
Pope Gregory's "Gregorian Calendar" also returned the beginning of the new year BACK to Julius Caesar's January 1st date.
As England was an Anglican Protestant country, it reluctantly postponed adopting the more accurate Catholic Gregorian Calendar.
Most of Protestant Europe did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar for nearly two centuries.
This gave rise to some interesting record keeping.
For example: ships would leave Protestant England on one date according to the Julian Calendar, called "Old Style" and arrive in Catholic Europe at an earlier date, as much of Europe was using the Gregorian Calendar, called "New Style."
Another example is that England's William Shakespeare and Spain's Miguel de Cervantes, author of Man of La Mancha.
They died on the same date, April 23, 1616, but when the differences between England's Julian Calendar and Spain's Gregorian Calendar are removed, Cervantes actually died ten days before Shakespeare.
In 1752, England and its colonies finally adopted the Gregorian Calendar, but by that time there was an 11 day discrepancy between the "Old Style" (OS) and the "New Style" (NS).
When America finally adjusted its calendar, the day after September 2, 1752 (Old Style), became September 14, 1752 (New Style).
There were reportedly accounts of confusion and rioting.
As countries of Western Europe, particularly Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch and English, began to trade and establish colonies around the world, the Gregorian Calendar came into international use.
All dates in the world are either BC "Before Christ" or AD "Anno Domini" -- meaning in the Year of the Lord's Reign.
In the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, secularists in academia popularized the use of BCE - "Before Common Era" and CE "Common Era."
The futile nature of their effort is displayed with the question: When did the recording of time change from Before Common Era to Common Era? The answer is, the birth of Christ.
In their attempt to ignore Christ they are, nonetheless, forced to acknowledge Him.
England's Henry VIII made the Anglican Church the country's established denomination in 1534.
As in other nations, the government proceeded to impose state-approved beliefs, demanding uniformity of doctrine and services, thus restricting the freedoms of conscience, speech, and expression.
During this time, Christian dissenters, nonconformists, separatists, such as Puritans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Anabaptists, and Catholics, fled from England to other European countries, or to the colonies in America.
Jews were expelled from England in 1290 by Edward I and not allowed back in till Oliver Cromwell in 1657.
Dissenters who remained in England practiced their faith in secret, sometimes suffering the intolerance judges in court, open government persecution, and even martyrdom.
In 1625, a type of Sunday school catechism song came into use to teach children Christian doctrine, titled "In Those Twelve Days," where a spiritual meaning was assigned to each day.
IN THOSE TWELVE DAYS (1625)
In those twelve days, and
in those twelve days,
let us be glad,
For God of his power hath all things made.
- What is that which is but one?
What is that which is but one?
We have but one God alone
In Heaven above sits on his throne. Chorus
- What are they which are but two?
What are they which are but two?
Two Testaments, as we are told,
The one is New and the other Old. Chorus
- What are they that are but three?
What are they that are but three?
Three persons in the Trinity,
The Father, Son, and Ghost Holy. Chorus
- What are they that are but four?
What are they that are but four?
Four Gospels written true,
John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew. Chorus
- What are they that are but five?
What are they that are but five?
Five senses we have to tell,
God grant us grace to use them well. Chorus
- What are they that are but six?
What are they that are but six?
Six ages this world shall last,
Five of them are gone and past. Chorus
- What are they that are but seven?
What are they that are but seven?
Seven days in the week have we,
Six to work and the seventh holy. Chorus
- What are they that are but eight?
What are they that are but eight?
Eight beatitudes are given,
Use them well and go to Heaven. Chorus
- What are they that are but nine?
What are they that are but nine?
Nine degrees of Angels high
Which praise God continually. Chorus
- What are they that are but ten?
What are they that are but ten?
Ten Commandments God hath given,
Keep them right and go to Heaven. Chorus
- What are they that are but eleven?
What are they that are but eleven?
Eleven thousand virgins did partake
And suffered death for Jesus' sake. Chorus
- What are they that are but twelve?
What are they that are but twelve?
Twelve Apostles Christ did chuse
To preach the Gospel to the Jews. Chorus
Though it cannot be proven, the song, "In Those Twelve Days," may have been a precursor to the English folk song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," first printed in London in 1780, in the children's book, Mirth without Mischief.
An explanation of the song's possible meanings are:
My True Love = God Himself
- Partridge = Jesus Christ (A partridge will feign injury to decoy predators from helpless nestlings - "He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities." Isaiah 53:5)
Pear Tree = Cross
Turtle Doves = Old & New Testaments
French Hens = Faith, Hope & Love
Calling Birds = Four Gospels
Golden Rings = Pentateuch-First 5 Books of Bible
Geese A-Laying = Six Days of Creation
Swans a-Swimming = Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
8, Maids A-Milking = Eight Beatitudes
Ladies Dancing = Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Lords A-Leaping = Ten Commandments
Pipers Piping = Eleven Faithful Apostles
Drummers = Twelve Points in Apostles Creed.