Information, History and Origins

The 12 Days of Christmas is an English Christmas carol that dates back to the 16th
century.

Fast Facts:
1.        First published in 1780
2.        Frederick Austin wrote the standard arrangement of the song

According to popular tradition, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to
practice their faith openly from 1558 until 1829. During that era this carol was written
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.

The True Meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas

  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ. A partridge will often pretend to
    be injured to draw attention to herself and away from her young to protect
    them from danger.  Because of its self sacrifice the partridge was used to
    represent Christ.
  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.  Because they have one
    mate for life the turtle doves represent enduring relationships, such as the
    unbreakable bond between the Old and New Testaments.
  • Three French hens stood for the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • 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 as eggs represent
    new life.
  • Seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit -
    Prophecy, Service, Teaching, Encouragement, Giving, Leadership, and Mercy.
  • The eight maids a-milking stand for the eight beatitudes which Jesus gave in
    the Sermon on the Mount to spell out blessings for the meek and lowly.
  • Nine ladies dancing represent the fruit of the Spirit - Love, Joy, Peace,
    Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
  • The ten lords a-leaping stand for the law and leadership symbolised by the
    Ten Commandments.
  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven disciples who remained faithful
    to Christ.
  • The twelve drummers drumming represented the twelve points of belief in the
    Apostles' Creed


Origin & History
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