Twelvetide Rituals | The Twelve Days of Christmas

  reading time: 17 min

Have you ever listened to the English Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas and wondered what they are singing about? The Twelve Days of Christmas are also known as Twelvetide, The Omen Days, The Twelve Quiet Days or The Twelve Holy Nights, and they refer to the special period of time between the old year and the new year.

These twelve nights arise because on the one hand there is the solar calendar with 365 days, and on the other hand there are the twelve moons with 354 days, 29.5 days per month. This results in a difference of twelve nights – twelve days that are neither part of the old year nor part of the new year and therefore "outside" of time. It is believed to be a period during which time "stands still" when the veil between the worlds is thin, and therefore it is a highly spiritual time.

Officially, the Twelve Days of Christmas begin on the night of Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, December 25, and conclude on Epiphany, January 5, at midnight which is also known as Three Kings Day or Twelfth Day.

Alternatively and going
by the name of Yuletide or the Twelve Days of Yule you can also celebrate this mystical time beginning on Yule (the Winter Solstice) which falls on December 21, and ending on January 1. This is also where the custom of burning a Yule log for the duration of 12 days comes into play.

In my case, I usually celebrate the Twelve Days starting on Christmas Day, but
this decision is entirely up to you.

During the Twelve Days it is believed that the Wild Hunt begins and Odin roams the skies with his army of the dead to frighten man and beast. At this time, people should stay indoors in order not to be carried away by the raging Wild Hunt. But people also thought of the departed souls and prayed for them so that they would be freed.

For that reason it was and still is common to put candles on the window sill or by the door and to smudge the home to protect yourself from unwelcome spirits that pass by. We are also particularly close to our ancestors during this time and we can honour them through thoughts and prayers. This time is also particularly good for making wishes and oracles.

In fact, the Twelve Days are even said to predict the course of the new year.
Basically, each of the twelve days is said to correlate to how each month of the next year will be, so December 25 represents what January will hold for your, December 26 represents February and so on.

It is a time of peace and silence, of introspective and reflection. All work should be left undone, if possible. So it's best to take the days off during this period, and spend the time at home, recalling the old year, thinking of your resolutions for the coming near, or just reading a good book!

Today I want to share with you the daily rituals that you can do during the magical time of Twelvetide or The Twelve Days of Christmas. These rituals are separated into general rituals you can do every day, and rituals that are specific to each day of the Twelve Days.

Since this time is all about looking inward and becoming quiet, meditation is the most obvious and very effective way to do that. If you are new to this, you might want to use a guided meditation like this Winter Solstice guided meditation or this 30 Minute Guided Meditation – The Silent Mind. Otherwise, just sit down comfortably on your sofa or a comfy chair for 10 to 30 minutes and simply notice what thoughts and emotions arise. You could also reflect on events that happened that day, or what feelings or thoughts you had during the day.

I recommend doing this every day, either in the morning or at night.

Spend Time in Silence

You definitely don't have to go to the extreme and spend the entire 12 days in complete silence, the way I did during my Ayurvedic cleanse last spring, but at least spend some time without speaking or communicating in any other way. This prevents you from mindless blabbering, as well as making you very focussed and self-conscious / aware of yourself and your thoughts, similar to meditation. Avoid excess stimulation during this time, if possible, and be as mindful as possible.

Keep a (Dream) Journal
You might also journal about your dreams, which are said to be particularly vivid during this time. If you have a hard time remembering your dreams, you could also journal about other events occurring on each particular day, or you could express yourself creatively in a scrapbook, by drawing or painting or writing a poem.
Pick an Oracle Card
As you know, I love using tarot cards or other oracle cards to help me get a new sense of direction or affirmation. Personally, I usually draw an oracle card for special occasions like my birthday, the New Year, or the Twelve Days. If you like to ask a specific question, the phrasing could be something along the lines of: "What energy will this Day / Month bring to me?"

Read through the card that you chose and add the meaning to your journal for the day. I invite you to also write down your thoughts and interpretation of the card.

Draw a Spirit Animal
Similarly to the oracle cards, drawing a spirit animal is another wonderful practice during Twelvetide. One of the books on Twelvetide rituals I've read features a picture of 12 animals that you can draw each day, consisting of a fox (true
discernment, unveiling your inner strength), a raven (exploring new territory, not taking things too seriously, being playful), a squirrel (being diligent in a relaxed way), a blackbird (balance between listening and speaking, beauty in simplicity), a stag (courageously following your inner wisdom), a mouse (sharing with others, big heart), a buzzard (expanse, freedom, overview), a deer (gentleness, grace, full of childlike innocence and curiosity), a rabbit (caution, daring to do what is important to you, but hiding in case of danger), a swan (growth, change, transformation), a boar (digging deep, what really fulfils you?), an owl (gift of seeing, making the invisible visible),

You could either print out google images of these animals and treat them like you would oracle cards, or you could just write the names on different pieces of paper, and pick one each day.

Another option would be to see which animal(s) you encounter each day during this period. Perhaps a robin, a cat, a rabbit or even a deer? Look up characteristics that are associated with these animals, and write them down in your journal.

For instance, the robin redbreast stands for encouragement, comfort and help. Symbolizing the beauty of life, it reminds us to direct our attention to the beautiful sides of life.

Light a Candle

During this darkest time of the year, lighting a candle or several candles are a symbol of hope. They show us that the light will always win, no matter how dark the shadows around us.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, candles are also seen as a means of protection against dark energies. A lovely idea would be to keep a light burning in a lantern in front of your house during the duration of the Twelve Days.

If you like, you could even set up a small altar in your home, perhaps in a cosy corner of your living room or in your bed room, where you place a candle, your journal, your oracle cards, and other meaningful objects like crystals or a vase of flowers.

By the way, great crystals for Twelvetide include clear quartz, green aventurine, rose quartz, sodalite, amethyst, red  jasper,
fluorite, moonstone, carnelian, black tourmaline, howlite, hematite obsidian, and shungite.

Burn Incense

Did you know that the German name for the Twelve Days probably translates to "Smoke Nights", Raunächte (Rauchnächte) in German? This refers to the custom of people burning incense in their homes and churches throughout this period, which is believed to drive out evil influences and old energies.

If you like, take some incense – or a smudge stick – and cleanse your home that way.

Create a Vision Board

With each day of the Twelve Days representing each month of the new year, what better way to manifest your dreams and desires by creating a vision board for the new year! When you visualize your dreams like that, you are more likely to believe that they can come true. And when you are believing it more, you are also more likely to do the things you need to do to accomplish them.

So grab a poster board or a piece of paper, and glue on all sorts of pictures that inspire you and that represent the things you want to bring into your life over the next year. (Or, create a virtual vision board on your computer.)

I usually use Google images or Ecosia for this. Pixabay is another great source for images, or of course Pinterest. For example, I collected a bunch of pictures (and by a bunch I mean 942, whoops) that represent what I imagine my dream home to look like.

Whatever it is that you want to bring into your life, make sure to use photos that are going to inspire and excite you, and evoke the feelings you'll get when you have manifested that into your life.

Thirteen Wishes

Similar to creating a vision board, a common Twelvetide ritual is to write down 13 wishes (your heart's desires!) on small pieces of paper and fold them. I like to do this on the Winter Solstice. Draw 12 of them during the Twelve Nights of Christmas and burn them, feeling gratitude with each paper you burn: These are the wishes that the universe will fulfil for you during the coming year.

The last wish however, you will have to fulfil yourself. Write it down in your journal to remind you of your task for the coming year.

Go for a Walk

While Twelvetide is all about stillness and looking inward, there is something magical about spending some time outside each day, be that sitting in your garden or on your balcony for a while and soaking in all the sun you can get, or going for a walk in nature – preferably in solitude. Last winter we were blessed with this winter wonderland, and it brought me so much joy and bliss to walk around in the crunching snow, marvelling at how different and magical the world looked!


Christmas Eve / December 24:

This Holy Night is a wonderful opportunity to clean your home and decorate festively. You may prepare a special meal, maybe leave some offerings for the animals and spirits. In the evening you may go to the service or have a small gratitude ceremony, looking back and reflecting on the year.

What was good this past year? What blessings did you receive? What are you grateful for? What did you experience and learn? Which experiences were particularly momentous? Who was by your side this year? What changed? What did you accomplish or finish this year? What is still pending? What are you leaving behind, what are you taking into the new year?

The official beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas starts at midnight on the 24th of December, going into the 25th. 

1st Night / December 25 / JANUARY:

Today's theme is "foundation". Look at your roots, your family. On what foundation are you standing? What is in balance, and what isn't? What seeds do you want to sow? What do you want to achieve and realize in the new year? What do you want to let go of? What requires healing? 

Bless and honour your ancestral roots. Look at what you need to heal.    

You may light a candle for your family and ancestors, and give thanks to them.

2nd Night / December 26 / FEBRUARY:

This day focuses on your higher self and your inner guidance. What will accompany you into the new year? Who is by your side? Who do you want to have contact with? What spirit animal will be with you? Which tree or plant or crystal will give you strength? Which element is predominant? What are your goals for the new year? What questions are burning inside you? What still needs to be resolved? What does it mean for you to be at peace with myself?

Meditate on what questions weigh on your mind. Take your time. Become quiet and listen to yourself for at least five minutes. Write down whatever you receive.

3rd Night / December 27 / MARCH:
Today is about opening your heart and allowing miracles in(to) your life. 
Ask yourself: Who gave you advice, inspiration, love or joy this year? What is your heart's desire? What are your favourite things to do? What makes your heart shine, what makes you feel deep joy? (or in the words of Marie Kondo: What sparks joy?) What fulfils you?
Meditate on a feeling of love and openness. Breathe light into your heart and imagine it opening like a rose and love flowing in. You might also want to do a heart-opening yoga practice, such as this one.
Create a little wish list where you visualise your goals and desires for the coming year. You can even get crafty and create a vision board.
4th Night / December 28 / APRIL:
This day is devoted to change, transformation and closure by solving any unfinished tasks or unresolved feelings from the past three Days of Christmas. 
Which old habits do you want to change? 
Who or what gives you energy? Who or what robs you of energy? 

Write down all the negative things that are on your mind, such as nightmares, arguments, bad weather, mistakes, bad habits or bad news. On another sheet of paper, rephrase all the negative experiences or thoughts into positive sentences, until you are completely satisfied with this perfect "script" for the new year. Finally, get rid of the negative list, and only keep the positive list.

5th Night / December 29 / MAY:
The theme for today is "friendship". Do you treat yourself like you would your own best friend? Or are you still punishing yourself for mistakes from the past? Forgive yourself for any negative feelings of shame or self-resentment you hold against yourself. Take another look back at the past year and recognize your accomplishments, victories, contributions, failures, your ups and downs, and what you did well and right. Say YES to yourself. Try to see yourself in a positive and loving light for at least five minutes.
Now look at the friendships in your life, current and former. Who are your friends? Who is good for you? Who do you like to be with? Take time to reflect on them and feel gratitude for each one of them – even if they hurt you. Are you able to extend the forgiveness and love you showed yourself to them? 
Which friendships do you want to strengthen, which ones do you want to distance yourself from because perhaps your ways have parted? Who was there for you when you weren't well? Who has been with you through the good and hard times of your life? Do you treat yourself like you would your best friend? How can you say "yes" to yourself? What do you need to forgive yourself, to love yourself?

6th Night / December 30 / JUNE:
Today we delve into letting go of the old and clearing up. Clean up your home and burn some incense.
What do you want to leave behind so that you can enter the new year completely carefree? What can you let go of? What can you free yourself from? What is not yet forgiven? What still needs closure? 
Write down what you do NOT want to take into the new year – thoughts, memories, objects – on a piece of paper, then burn that piece of paper. Image the things you wrote down to dissolve in the flames as well.

7th Night / December 31 / JULY:
On the last day of the year we focus on the preparation for what is coming. We have left the old behind, now we can dream of the new year and what it holds for us. If you like you can use tarot cards or divination today. Write down any New Year's Resolutions.
What is your vision for the new year? What do you want to achieve in the coming  year? What do you want to strengthen? Do you listen to your inner voice? Do you know your needs? Do you take good care of yourself?

Take a bath and wash off the old. Smudge your home with incense or sage.
Spend this day with loved ones. Perhaps you want to do divination together?
You may also wear red underwear today – it's supposed to bring good luck, especially for your love life 😉

8th Night / January 1 / AUGUST:
The first day of the new year is all about new beginnings and realization. We celebrate the New Year, and send good wishes to our loved ones. Get together with friends and go out in nature.

How can you bless the new year? Perhaps by placing flowers or candles outside, or by scattering birdseed? To whom do you wish good luck? What are your good wishes? Do you believe in yourself? Do you trust yourself? Have you realized myself?

9th Night / January 2 / SEPTEMBER:
On this day everything is supposed to light and bright. We find peace and clarity and can thereby gather new energy. Light a candle. Meditate on a golden light flowing through the crown chakra into your heart and from there into your hands. You could also call each of the coming twelve months before your eyes and "bless" them.

What blessing do you want to give? To whom can you send light and blessings? What do you want to harvest in the new year? What do you want to achieve in the new year? What do you need to be healthy? How can you connect with my inner core, your center? Do you dare to trust your gut feeling? What do you need to be well?

Do things that strengthen your center (for example yoga practice, eating well, dancing). Find strength and peace and positive feelings today.
10th Night / January 3 / OCTOBER:
Today focuses on your visions and your wisdom. Consider whether you are using your time wisely, what activities are shaping you, and what you might want to change to positively alter your life situation.
How do you use your thoughts, your imagination, your self-expression? How do you use your life energy? How do you spend most of your time? What is your vision for the new year? What situation should change and improve? Are body and soul in balance? Are you at peace with yourself?

11th Night / January 4 / NOVEMBER:
The theme for today is "letting go" and death.     
Ask yourself: What is the meaning of your life? Why are you here? What do you want to bring to earth? What is important to you for your life? What do you want to be said or written about you at the end of your life?

12th Night / January 5 / DECEMBER:
On the last Day of Christmas we cleanse ourselves and our home of everything that burdens us. Today's theme is "awakening". What has not been good over the last twelve days? What is still burdening you? What still needs to be cleansed? Are you living up to your potential? Does your life have a meaning? Are you a guide for others?
Today is another key night. Here you can resolve everything that didn't go well in the previous nights: Write down everything negative, rephrase it into positive on another piece of paper and burn the piece of paper with the negative text.
Meditate on inner purification. Imagine a violet flame that burns away all the bad memories and thoughts of the past.
Prepare for the "Night of Miracles": According to legend, a holy wind blows there to bless each house and its inhabitants. To let it in, open all your windows and doors wide. Burn incense. Something new is coming!

The Thirteenth Night:

At midnight on the 5th of December the Twelve Days of Christmas come to an end and the gates to the spirit world close once again. Read through your notes from the past twelve days again and answer the following questions:

What memories have you processed, what do you still need to work through?
What would you like to let go of?
What still needs time?
What new insights will you take with you into the new year?
How would you describe these past twelve days and nights in summary (1 sentence)?
Take joy in the magic of life, and take it with you into everyday life. Whatever you think is possible can come true. Believe in yourself. Love yourself and everyone around you. Love makes miracles possible!

Enjoy this magical time