We have all heard the Christmas Carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” There is a story floating about the internet and other venues that the song has its roots in 18th-century England, as a memory-and-forfeit game sung by British children. In the game, players had to remember all of the previous verses and add a new verse at the end. Those unable to remember a verse paid a forfeit, in the form of a kiss or a piece of candy to the others.
One theory, however, connects the carol to the era when Catholicism was outlawed in England, from 1558 and 1829. The carol is said to be a catechism song for Catholics to learn “the tenets of their faith,” as they could not openly practice in Anglican society.
Today, each gift in the song represents a hidden meaning relevant to the Christian faith. Every time I hear the song I try to remember the meaning of each gift. They are:
A partridge in a pear tree – Jesus Christ
2 Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens – Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds – the Four Gospels
5 Golden Rings – The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”
6 Geese A-laying – the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking – the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing – the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping – the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping – the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming – the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed
But…if you check Snopes.com this story is probably not true. The origins of “The Twelve Days of Christmas Song” is unknown.
Why not let it become true today? Someone took the time to assign a particular point of the Christian faith to each gift mentioned in the song, and the story has been circulating for years. It must be meaningful to a lot of people. The new meaning of the lyrics may not be steeped in history, but we can change something and made it good. The lyrics are twisted around for other purposes, such as advertising, why not change the meaning of the verses and use it for good?
Music has a way of stirring up memories and emotions. As for me, I will continue to enjoy the myth, sing and remember all that my great God has given to us, not just for 12 days, but for every day.
James 1:17 (CEB)
Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.