Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Origins of "The 12 Days of Christmas"

Interesting tidbit that a friend emailed to me this week about the origins of this song that we all know.


From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly.

Someone during that era wrote "The 12 Days of Christmas" as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church.

Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

  • Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

  • The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

  • The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

  • Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

  • The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

  • Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit---Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

  • The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.


Dawn said...

this is great- a friend mentioned that each "day" represented something... that was after someone else said what a dumb somg it was! it does get tiring, but i especially like the reliant k version!

kingdom writer said...

Absolutely brilliant, I have always wondered what it all meant!

74WIXYgrad said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. I will have to show this to my wife and daughter.

Busy Bee Suz said...

How cooooool is that?
It is not nearly as annoying to me now. :)

Life with Kaishon said...

This is really interesting!

On a completely different note, did you see the Top Chef where they had to cook the 12 days of Christmas? It was SO ridiculous it made me angry : ).

Hope your Christmas week is wonderful!

Laurie Keller said...

That's so fine to learn all of that just now after all my years on earth! Thanks and love. xoxo.

KBL 2 ORD 2 SAN 2 LUV said...

Sooo very cool, huh? I read about in like 5th or 6th grade, and I always remembered it. Not bad for a Muslim chica, huh?! :-)

Kisses to Ruby & Diva for me please!

Deron Arnold said...

Good to know.

Sounds like some good fundamentals for catechism.