Twelve Days of Christmas

The Christmas Carol

This is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled many. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

Well from 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol 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 the church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

One True Love refers to God
Two turtle doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
Three French hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
Four calling birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
Five golden rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
Six geese a laying refers to the six days of creation
Seven swans a swimming refers to the Seven Sacraments and/or the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
Eight maids a milking refers to the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit; Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
Ten lords a leaping refers to the Ten Commandments.
Eleven pipers piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles.
Twelve drummers drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed.

Lyrics to 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 calling 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 calling 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 calling 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 calling 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 calling 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 calling 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 calling 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 calling 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 calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

Merry Christmas
Mike

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Ray Conniff

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Comments 19 comments

Presigo profile image

Presigo 6 years ago from Spokane, Wa

Fantastic, as a catholic I did not know this history, thank you for sharing, Merry Christmas !!


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario Author

Your welcome Presigo. You know with your posts in the forums I figured that you were also a Catholic. Merry Christmas to you too.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 6 years ago from West Virginia

I knew this a long time ago. People need to know the history of this and other songs. Thre is always a message hidden when there is persecution anywhere and to anyone. It was very ingenious for those people to put this in a song. Children and some adults tend to remember things more if it is to song.

Merry Christmas Mike!


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario Author

Yeah LG it is easier to remember things with a song isn't it. Merry Christmas Lady Guinevere (Deb, right?)


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 6 years ago from West Virginia

correct.


rdlang05 profile image

rdlang05 6 years ago from Minnesota

Thank you! I was trying to remember what all the symbolism was when I heard this song the other day. Good hub!


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario Author

You are very welcome rdlang05. Have a blessed Christmas.


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

I can't believe I've got this far and never knew this-you have seriously added to my store of knowledge.

Brilliant hub.


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario Author

Cool, that's nice to know itakins. I just edited it to show what the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit are. Have a wonderful Christmas over there in Ireland.


wearing well profile image

wearing well 6 years ago from Lancashire U.K.

Mike what a fantastic hub! I was just in the middle of writing my Christmas cards and I thought I'd take a break to peruse the latest hubtivity and I am glad I did as I'm certainly feeling that festivity spirit now!

Glad tidings to you and a huge thank you to you because I've learnt something new!

Wishing you peace and happiness this Christmas.


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

Great job-well done,and a very happy,holy, and peaceful Christmas to you too.


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario Author

Thanks again itakins. You too wearing well. I'm glad it put you in the festive spirit. Merry Christmas from Canada to the UK and Ireland. I like receiving and giving these international wishes across the waters at this special time of the year. :-)


sandra rinck 6 years ago

Never knew that. So what about the partridge in a pear tree?


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario Author

Well I said above that it refers to God. But "my true love sent to me A partridge in a pear tree" is suppose to represent God the Father (my true love) sending His Son (a partridge).


sandra rinck 6 years ago

Oh, my bad. Okay I get it now. :)


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario Author

Cool :-)


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Thanks for this interesting Hub. I am going to link it to mine on the same subject (but with a slightly different angle).

Love and peace

Tony


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 6 years ago from West Virginia

Hey Mike, How was your christmas?


Make  Money profile image

Make Money 6 years ago from Ontario Author

Your welcome Tony. Sure, link to it if you want. Love and peace to you as well.

Hi Lady Guinevere. I had a nice Christmas, thanks. How was yours? Good I hope.

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