On the Seventh Day of Christmas

....................................Seven Swans A-Swimming..............................

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...Seven Swans A-Swimming

On the seventh day the lover sends seven swans. Throughout history swans have been associated with royalty and the swan is often used on royal symbols and other decorations. Swans are also found in myths and folk tales dealing with love.

The Act of Swans, passed by Parliament in 1482, limited ownership of swans to landowners, provided they marked the swans to show ownership and kept them on their lands. If a swan went off the owner's land, the owner had a year and a day to find it and bring it back to his property. Under the act, all swans in open and common waters belong to the crown. The law provided that, on the River Thames, the Company of Vintners and the Company of the Dyers could own swans on the open waters of that river provided that the swans belonging to the Dyers were marked with a single nick on the bill and those of the Vintners marked with two nicks on the bill. Unmarked swans are the property of the crown. While the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act protects all swans and makes it illegal to kill them, the Queen still technically owns all the swans in Great Britain, except for those in the Orkney Islands where the swans belong to the people. However, the Wildlife and Countryside Act applies in the Orkney Islands as well, which limits the rights of the people of the Orkney Islands to watching but not killing or eating their swans.

Swan meat is supposed to be quite tasty and from ancient times to the nineteenth century, roast swan was on the menu for the king's Christmas dinners and other royal banquets. Since the nineteenth century, the turkey has replaced the swan as the bird of choice for fall and winter holiday feasts.

With its close connection to royalty and royal holiday feasting, the choice of seven swans as a gift for this highborn lady from her lover is appropriate.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Four collie birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Five golden rings,

Four collie birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Six geese a-laying,

Five golden rings,

Four collie birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Seven swans a-swimming,

Six geese a-laying,

Five golden rings,

Four collie birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Eight maids a-milking,

Seven swans a-swimming,

Six geese a-laying,

Five golden rings,

Four collie birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Nine ladies dancing,

Eight maids a-milking,

Seven swans a-swimming,

Six geese a-laying,

Five golden rings,

Four collie birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Ten lords a-leaping,

Nine ladies dancing,

Eight maids a-milking,

Seven swans a-swimming,

Six geese a-laying,

Five golden rings,

Four collie birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Eleven pipers piping,

Ten lords a-leaping,

Nine ladies dancing,

Eight maids a-milking,

Seven swans a-swimming,

Six geese a-laying,

Five golden rings,

Four collie birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

Twelve drummers drumming,

Eleven pipers piping,

Ten lords a-leaping,

Nine ladies dancing,

Eight maids a-milking,

Seven swans a-swimming,

Six geese a-laying,

Five golden rings,

Four collie birds,

Three French hens,

Two turtle doves,

And a partridge in a pear tree!

© 2006 Chuck Nugent

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Brian Burton profile image

Brian Burton 4 years ago

Very nice history on swans. Had no idea that they are tasty. Very interesting... Lots of good facts here and a pleasure to read.

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