Celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas With Catholic Kids

When living the liturgical year, first comes the Advent season, then comes the Christmas season. For Catholics, Advent is a season for waiting and preparation. Christmas day starts the Christmas season, which isn’t a day but actually continues. In fact, there are 12 whole days of Christmas, and they go all the way through the Epiphany! Sometimes the 12 days of Christmas are referred to as the 12 days of light, so candles and other light sources are often associated with these days. So here we go, how to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas with Catholic kids


The page above is from Holidays In Handprints, a Christmas treasury for kids where you illustrate it yourself with handprint pictures. The 12 days of Christmas page is illustrated with fingerprint people of each of the 12 days. This is one of my favorite pages from the book! 

Have you heard of the symbols for the 12 days of Christmas that correlate with the popular song? It is said that starting in the 16th century in England Catholics were being persecuted and it was illegal to practice the faith. So the “12 days of Christmas” song was written as a secret code to help teach children their Catechism. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I do think it’s an awesome way to teach Cathlic kids about the Catechism, so I am totally in! Here is a list of the Catholic symbols as they go with the 12 days of Christmas song. 

12 Days Of Christmas Song Symbols For Catholics

  1. Partridge in a pear tree- Jesus on the cross

  2. Two turtle doves- the old and new testaments of the Bible

  3.  Three French hens- the 3 theological virtues from 1 Corinthians 13:13- Faith, Hope, and Love

  4. Four calling birds- the 4 Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

  5. Five golden rings- the Pentateuch (or first five books of the old Testament) Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

  6. Six geese a laying- the 6 days of creation (before God rested)

  7. Seven swans a swimming- the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord)

  8. Eight maids a milking- the 8 beatitudes given to us by Jesus during his sermon on the mount. 

  9. Nine ladies dancing- the 9 fruits of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (although Catholics do have 12 fruits of the Spirit total, and the other 3 are found in the Catechism)

  10.  Ten lords a leaping- the 10 Commandments 

  11.  Eleven pipers piping- the 11 faithful apostles

  12. Twelve drummers drumming- the 12 points of faith from the Apostle’s Creed

Keep Christmas Going For The Whole Season

So anything you do with the 12 days of Christmas to keep the season going all the way through the Epiphany is a great way to live the liturgical year with your kids! Us moms have an enormous amount of pressure on us to get “everything” done before Christmas, but the fact is that we do NOT need to do it all before Christmas. So I urge you to keep celebrating Christmas for all 12 days! Build gingerbread houses, bake cookies, sing Christmas songs, leave the tree up, make crafts… just keep it going! 

When does the Christmas season end for Catholics? Well, I have a whole post about that so read about how long Christmas really lasts there

Counting Down The 12 Days Of Christmas

Many Catholic families like to have a fun countdown calendar for keeping track of the 12 days of Christmas. This could be 12 different ornaments, 1 that you hang on the tree each day. It can also be a certain candy or activity that the kids get to have or do each day of Christmas. It could even be a simple as having a paper chain with 12 loops, one to tear for each day. Kids just love counting down the days! 

Ideas for counting down the 12 days of Christmas

  • Read 12 picture books about Christmas, 1 for each day during Christmas
  • Move the kings for your nativity set each closer and closer to the nativity set, having the kings arrive on the actual Epiphany
  • Have 12 small gifts that can be opened, one for each day
  • Hang 12 days of Christmas ornaments on the tree, one each day

12 Days Of Christmas Crafts And Activities

Our family just loves to celebrate the liturgical year and feast days with crafts, fun food, and other activities! I have a craft round up for the 12 days of Christmas here.

I also have a round up for fun food ideas for the 12 days of Christmas. 

Also, check out my post about celebrating the Epiphany with Catholic families.

12 Days Of Christmas Picture Books

I just love having picture books on hand for celebrating Catholic feast days, so I would like to share our absolute favorites for the 12 days of Christmas with you so your family can enjoy them, too! 

  • 12 Days Of Christmas By Jan Brett– We always love Jan Brett’s books because the illustrations are just so beautiful! This is my favorite picture book of these days. 

Be sure to check out all my my Advent and Christmas resources for Catholic families here.

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