Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 03:42:45 -0800 (PST)
From: Evelyn Harder
Subject: The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas is actually a catechism song.

Between the years 1558-1829, English Catholics were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Without regular mass, sacraments, or catechism lessons from the priest, there was little parents could do to help their children learn and remember all out their faith. This song was created to keep the Catholic faith in their lives, even though hidden for the time.

Instead of referring to an suitor, the "true love" mentioned in the song refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents symbolises every baptized person.

'A partridge in a pear tree' is Jesus Christ. A mother partridge will feign injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings. The children hearing this song would know that, and would understand the parallel between the acts of a mother bird, and the sacrifice of Christ.

The other symbols continue the symbolism:
  • 2 turtle doves----the Old and New Testaments;
  • 3 French hens--Faith, Hope and Charity;
  • 4 calling birds---the Four Gospels;
  • 5 golden rings---the first five books of the Old Testament which give the history of man's fall from grace;
  • 6 geese a laying-the six days of creation;
  • 7 swans a swimming-seven gifts of the Holy Spirit;
  • 8 maids a milking-the eight Beatitudes;
  • 9 ladies dancing--nine choirs of angels;
  • 10 lords a leaping-the Ten Commandments;
  • 11 pipers piping--the eleven faithful Apostles;
  • 12 drummers drumming-the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed