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The "Twelve Days of Christmas"....How it came to be



     We must all be grateful to Jaqui White for making sense of otherwise senseless words:
     When most people hear "The 12 days of Christmas" they think of the song. This song had its origins as a teaching tool to instruct young people in the meaning and content of the Christian faith. From 1558 to 1829 Roman Catholics in England were not able to practice their faith openly, so they had to find other ways to pass on their beliefs. The song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is one example of how they did it.


     The song goes, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me..."

The "true love" represents God and the "me" who receives these presents is the Christian.
The "partridge in a pear tree" was Jesus Christ who died on a tree as a gift from God.
The "two turtle doves" were the Old and New Testaments-another gift from God.
The "three French hens" were faith, hope and love--the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (1Corinthians 13).
The "four calling birds" were the four Gospels, which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The "five golden rings" were the first five books of the Bible also called the "Book of Moses."
The "six geese a-laying" were the six days of creation.
The "seven swans a swimming" were "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit." (1Corinthians 12:9-11, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1Peter 4:10-11)
The "eight maids a milking" were the eight beatitudes.
The "nine ladies dancing" were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
The "ten lords a-leaping" were the Ten Commandments.
The "eleven pipers piping" were the eleven faithful disciples.
The "twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of the Apostles' Creed.


     So the next time you hear "The Twelve Days of Christmas" consider how this otherwise non-religious sounding song had its origins in the Christian Faith.


     My comment: I would like to know the source of this fascinating explanation and would appreciate any comments. In the nineteenth century there was much speculation about Christian symbolism. Some saw it everywhere, others said they were deluded. The same goes for the argument about the origins of the Masonic symbols.
     The twelve days of Christmas could also refer to the twelve days leading up to the "Twelfth Night," Epiphany, January 6. This is not incompatible with Jaqui's explanation.
     My problem is that, having been brought up an Anglican, I see nothing here which is inconsistent with that faith, so there would be nothing for Catholics to hide.

Ronald Hilton - 12/22/99


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