Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 16: Special and Annual Events
TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS, C. 1927-28
Inspired by Cecil J. Sharp who visited the School in the summer of 1917, this presentation of the Twelve Days of Christmas, is probably based on the published 1916 version of the song and music found in Sheet Music from Cecil J. Sharp, ed., One Hundred English Folksongs (Oliver Ditson Company, Boston, 1916), #96, pp, 224-225. According to the notes of Mary Rogers, the first performance was in 1927 and the second in 1928 at Far House I.
The Twelve Days of Christmas detail the gifts delivered to the Christ child between Christmas Day and the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6. First mentioned as a festal tide by the eastern Father, Ephraem Syrus, at the end of the fourth century, it was legitimized by the western Council of Tours in 567 A.D. The ruler Ethelred (991-1016) in his laws ordained it to be a time of peace and concord among Christian men, when all strife must cease. Cecil Sharp collected it during WWI when peace was declared through a truce during the traditional Christmas period. Following WWI a truce during war time was rarely observed for Christmas and today such an action would be an anomaly.
Two other versions, one from 1911, was also published: Sheet Music from Cecil J. Sharp and Charles L. Marson, eds., Folk Songs from Somerset. Second Series. (London: Simpkin & Co., Ltd, et al., 1911), pp. 52-55. The other version is found in Sheet music to five tunes from Cecil J. Sharp, et al., “Forfeit Songs,” Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 5., No. 20 (1916), pp. 277-279.
First referred to as Mirth Without Mischief the Christmas pageant was performed for the court of King Pepin and first appeared in print c. 1780. (London: Printed by J. Davenport, 6, George’s Court, St. John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, for C. Sheppard, nd, ca. 1780), pp. 5-16.)
For an in-depth comparison of the various versions of the song and enactments, see: Hymns and Carols of Christmas – Notes