I got a very educational email about Christmas today!

@dragon54u (31608)
United States
December 10, 2010 1:48pm CST
Ever wonder about the 12 Days of Christmas song and why the heck anyone would give all that stuff--or want it?! Here's what I found out in an email my sister sent me: 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. -The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ. -Two turtle doves 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. People will always find a way to practice their faith and we sometimes forget how hard it used to be in ages past to be faithful. I'll respect this song from here on in, I used to think it was just silly.
2 people like this
11 responses
@owlwings (38861)
• Cambridge, England
10 Dec 10
It's an interesting theory but it's probably a modern piece of 'back explanation' (see Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp The carol or song seems to be of French origin (there are several French versions with different objects for each day) and may contain some simple mispronunciations which have turned much of it into nonsense. It has been pointed out, for example, that the word for 'partridge' in French is 'perdrix' which is pronounced very much like 'pear tree'. 'Calling birds' are a quite modern mispronunciation for 'colly birds' (an old name for the blackbird) - echoes of 'four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie'? There is nothing to stop anyone using the song as a mnemonic, of course, but this was probably not its original purpose. There are other cumulative songs, such as 'Green Grow the Rushes, O!' ("I'll sing you one, O! ... What is your one, O! ... One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so.") which have been variously claimed to be Christian (or pagan) remnants of a catechism of some kind. What is certain is that the songs themselves, and the kind of singing game they embody, are very old indeed.
2 people like this
@dragon54u (31608)
• United States
10 Dec 10
What a shame, it was such a heart-tugging story. I usually check Snopes before I forward anything like this or present it to my friends (and I read your link) but I neglected it this time because the story appealed to me so much. The truth is always the best, though, so thank you for setting us straight.
1 person likes this
@hofferp (4739)
• United States
10 Dec 10
Bah humbug, Owlwings... But not really, I read the Snopes discussion. I still learned something... Now, when I sing the song, I'm going to make sure I sing "colly birds" and, dang, I already forgot the other bird that gets mis-sung... Merry Christmas!
2 people like this
@hofferp (4739)
• United States
10 Dec 10
Ring-neck pheasants! I shouldn't forget that one it's the state bird of South Dakota, where I was born. It certainly will slow down the song when you get to "Five golden ring-neck pheasants..."
2 people like this
• United States
10 Dec 10
Thank you for posting that very enlightening explanation. I had just thought it was a very old Christmas Carol but never thought it had any special meaning. Thank you!
2 people like this
@dragon54u (31608)
• United States
11 Dec 10
It may not be true according to Snopes but I like to think of it that way. Most songs of the past have meaning lost over the years.
• United States
11 Dec 10
I don't care what snopes says. Anyway the mom and pop crew that runs Snopes were not around when the carol was written!!! I like your explanation and I really do not think that Carols have to be taken literally. There is no proof that Dec 25th was the date of the birth of Jesus. Supposedly there were lambs in the Manager and lambs are born in the spring not winter disputing the birth of day of Christ but we still celebrate and enjoy Christmas time. I do not pay any attention to Scrooges trying to spoil Christmas (or burst my bubble). So again thanks for posting your explanation!!
• Pamplona, Spain
10 Dec 10
Sorry Dragon, I posted again thinking that it had not posted I am using a different browser today and it takes some getting used to I can tell you. Driving me round the bend till I get the hang of it. Thanks for the Information about this Carol anyway.
2 people like this
@dragon54u (31608)
• United States
10 Dec 10
No worries, I had the same problem when I changed to Firefox and I about went nuts switching from one browser to another. Now the darned browser wants me to update it about every week--why can't they just make a good product and LEAVE IT ALONE?!!
1 person likes this
• Pamplona, Spain
10 Dec 10
Hiya dragon, This Carol I have sung in bits and pieces many times and I have often wondered about the real meaning of it. It´s a very cleverly put together Carol I think. I had no idea that this Carol had so much meaning. I know the meanings of the other Carols but this one above all has never really been sung in our School or otherwise. Whenever I sing it again I will think about what it must have meant to them in those times to have to sing it this way. Take care now.xxx
@dragon54u (31608)
• United States
10 Dec 10
I'm glad you liked it! Please also read Anora's and Owlwing's contributions to the discussion, they have some interesting links about this song. Happy Christmas to you!
1 person likes this
@buggles64 (2715)
• United States
10 Dec 10
This is very nice. I have always liked the song "The 12 days of Christmas" and I too thought it was just a silly song without any real meaning. Now, thanks to you I am a little more versed on this topic and I can share it with my kids. Thank you for sharing this!
2 people like this
@dragon54u (31608)
• United States
10 Dec 10
Depending on the ages of your children, it can open up a whole lot of discussions! I think it's good for children to know things like that and in a lot of cases it sparks an interest in history.
1 person likes this
@hofferp (4739)
• United States
10 Dec 10
I hadn't heard this before. Thanks for sharing it. Now I'll know there's meaning to the song...before, I just thought it was silly too.
2 people like this
• Pamplona, Spain
10 Dec 10
Hiya dragon, Yes I have often wondered about the wording of this Carol. I love the secret meaning of it. It all makes sense to me now. Every time I hear it or sing it now it will have a deeper meaning for me and I shall tell this to all who want to know about it. Great stuff I love all those hidden secrets and mystery things. When King Charles the First was alive there was lot´s of that going on secrets and mysteries and all that. Also I wonder if there are any other Carols around that could have hidden meanings? This is an eye opener for me love it. xxx
2 people like this
11 Dec 10
Hiya dragon54u, I must admit I never really understood any of the meanings of this song. Thank you so much for the enlightenment. I suppose there will be meaning in all of the Carols and different songs we sing all year round. After all, the old ones will have started out as folk songs sung from village to village, town to town to give local news. It may be worth researching the roots of all of the carols that we sing during this very festive time. Gives us something else to focus on apart from the crass commercialism of Christmas nowadays.
1 person likes this
@dragon54u (31608)
• United States
11 Dec 10
Crass commercialism is right! I was just up in my attic to get my Christmas decorations and wondered why in the world I had 7 boxes of stuff!!!! When my mom was little she and her brother got an orange to split between them and if Grandpa had any spare money-which wasn't often-they got a candy stick each. They'd play music and sing songs and read the Bible and that was Christmas. They felt rich! We've really stunk up Christmas, haven't we? Let's remember the reason for the season--happy Christmas to you!
11 Dec 10
Sorry about being so rude dragon54u, I hope you have a wonderfully happy Christmas, I only have the one Grandchild at the moment, far too much Bah Humbug going around my head at the moment. Ho Hum, I'd better start baking, it always cheers me up.
• United States
10 Dec 10
dragon- I found the same snopes article that Owl found when doing some research, but I also found the following article you might find of interest: http://www.brownielocks.com/twelvedaysofchristmas.html I think overall a song can have many meanings depending upon who is listening to it. The point of this part of the year is to celebrate and be grateful for what we have. In times gone past things were not as joyous as they are today. Between plagues, wars, famines, etc it was a right miracle that we survived the Dark Ages and yet here mankind is. I think if this has meaning for you as a Christian then simply take it for what it gives you. Don't ever let someone else tell you what to believe and what not to believe. Namaste-Anora
1 person likes this
@dragon54u (31608)
• United States
10 Dec 10
Thank you Anora! The truth is usually found strewn among a lot of stories and legends. Both you and Owlwings certainly helped me to a new appreciation of this Christmas carol.
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@owlwings (38861)
• Cambridge, England
10 Dec 10
An excellent link, Anora_Eldorath. I would add to it that, even today, ALL swans in England belong to the Crown. The only other body which is allowed to serve roast swan (by Royal dispensation) is St John's College in Cambrisge.
1 person likes this
• United States
10 Dec 10
dragon- I'm glad. You're just so sweet and you brought a smile to my face with this post. Owl-I didn't know that. How interesting! I am not sure I'd ever want to eat swan though. I think I'd feel wrong about it. Have you had it? Is the Sturgeon still protected by the crown?
@savypat (20247)
• United States
11 Dec 10
What fun, this certianly gave me new respect for this somewhat difficult song. I always would forget one or two lines of it. Thanks.
@dragon54u (31608)
• United States
11 Dec 10
I heard a version of it the other day on the 1920's Radio Network by Allen Sherman in the 50's. His began with "a Japanese transistor radio" and went on with all the things that were popular back then included a "statue with a clock where her stomach ought to be". It was hilarious! I wish I could find an audio file of it and share it with my friends on myLot. I, too, have more respect for the song even though Owlwings and Anora found links that say this is not entirely true. But the links I read just makes it all the more interesting and meaningful to me!
@jillhill (37384)
• United States
11 Dec 10
Thanks for sharing. I had somewhat of an idea as I had heard this before....but didn't know exactly what everything stood for...it's nice to know...and funny too as my mother had the glasses of the twelve days and before we opened gifts we each picked a glass and you had to sing what was on your glass...take your turn...it was cool.
1 person likes this
@dragon54u (31608)
• United States
11 Dec 10
That sounds like such a fun tradition! I've never heard of anyone doing that and I think I'll steal it when I have grandchildren.