Joyful Noise – Holiday Two Week Issue – last one for 2009

Angel of Peace, Rev. Irmadean 2002

U.C.M. Newsletter of Joy, Humor, Laughter,

and Inspiration


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 . . . .”

Two turtledoves

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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: