Lynda's Blog

A Merry Christmas Wish and a History Lesson on a Popular Holiday Song

The History of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’

I was raised a Catholic and never truly understood the meaning of this song until Sister Francis explained it to me when I was in third grade. After that I loved singing this song because I loved it, and because I truly understood the meaning behind it.

The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The “true love” mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so…”

The other symbols mean the following:

2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments

3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”, which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.

6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation

7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments

8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes

9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments

11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles

12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

I love holiday songs and start singing them the day after Thanksgiving, and this is one of my favorite.

I hope your holidays are happy, and surrounded with friends and family.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours. I hope your on Santa’s nice list and you end up getting all your wishes filled this year.

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