On the Tenth Day of Christmas

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...Ten Lords A-Leaping

December 21, 2006 (updated 12/27/10)

The ten lords a-leaping most likely refers to leaping dancers (called morris dancers) who performed leaping dances between courses at feasts.

This type of wild and strenuous dancing probably evolved from more ancient war and fertility dances and would have been a popular form of entertainment for this type of function.

Unlike the nine ladies dancing in the previous stanza where the dancers appear to have been guests dancing for enjoyment, these were professional dancers brought in to entertain the guests while they dined.

Morris dancing itself was a popular form of folk dancing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and possibly earlier. Both King Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I had professional Morris Dance Troupes perform as part of the entertainment at feasts.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas - Ten Lords A-Leaping

Ten Lords A-Leaping
Ten Lords A-Leaping

Morris Dancing

Many parish church records from this period show both expenses for the purchase of costumes and the bells that the dancers wore while performing as well as income from the rental of the costumes to neighboring parishes.

While the royal court and other nobles would probably hire professional morris dance troupes to perform at social functions year round, local amateur groups seem to have done most of their performances in conjunction with annual May Day and other outdoor spring festivals.

Morris dancing declined following the English Civil Wars of the mid-seventeenth century which brought Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans to power with their dislike and banning of any type of frivolity such as singing and dancing.

The twentieth century brought a revival of the Morris and other folk dancing traditions in the UK and other parts of the world including the U.S. Today there are local Morris Dance Troupes and competitions in the UK as well as other parts of the world.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
Two Turtle Doves
Two Turtle Doves
Three French Hens
Three French Hens
Four Collie Birds
Four Collie Birds
Five Golden Rings
Five Golden Rings
Six Geese A-Laying
Six Geese A-Laying | Source
Seven Swans
Seven Swans | Source
Eight Maids A-Milking
Eight Maids A-Milking
Nine Ladies Dancing
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eleven Pipers Piping
Eleven Pipers Piping
Twelve Drummers Drumming
Twelve Drummers Drumming

© 2006 Chuck Nugent

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2 comments

182BEVERLEI 5 years ago

Thank you for this very enlightened history background about today's stories and tales.


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Amber90 7 years ago

I enjoyed reading this hub. To the point simple and defined. very well written

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