U.C.M. Newsletter of Joy, Humor, Laughter,
Editor: Rev. Doti Boon
Volume 8 page 52 (12-23-09)
I honor and value the diversity in our community
The Twelve days of Christmas
The Twelve Days of Christmas, contrary to much popular belief, are not the twelve days before Christmas, but are the twelve days from Christmas to the beginning of Epiphany, on January 6th. This holiday celebrates the visitation of the Magi and is often a time of gift giving
By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days of Christmas with local Goddess festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with rituals releasing the impurities of the year and the bringing in the light for the start of the New Year.
After watching our CCL Choir sing Twelve days of Christmas lead by Kathy (Kat) Silas and superbly sung and hilariously acted out by the choir members – I decided I needed more information on this unusual and baffling Christmas carol. What in the world do leaping lords; French hens, swimming swans and especially the partridge that won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas and the beginning of Epiphany? Immediately after wondering it – a copy of the enclosed Twelve Days of Christmas was passed onto me.
Of course I checked it out with Snopes and there is some debate about the historical and religious significance of this song. Some feel it is a modern day version – others that it was part of the original meaning in 1695. Whatever the truth, I found it interesting and enlightening.
“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 their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.”
Twelve Days of Christmas
The partridge in a pear tree
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: ”Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . .”
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.
And now you know some of the history of a Christmas Carol…so pass it on if you wish.