The Twelve Days of Christmas Explained

By December 22, 2011 Christmas Costumes No Comments


I have known all the words to The Twelve Days of Christmas for as long as I could remember but I never knew what it meant. A friend posted their meaning on Facebook but I have to say, I’m still bewildered.

As the story goes, from the mid 1500s to the early 1800s Roman Catholics in England had to practice their faith in secrecy. To help the children remember the doctrines of Catholicism and other important facts of the faith, they  wrote this carol as a catechism song with each day of Christmas symbolizing a religious reality. As you read below, you will see what each day means.  The partridge in a pear tree I get but how ladies dancing  helps you remember what the  nine fruits of the holy spirit are and so on, is beyond me.  All I remember is how the nuns in Catholic school made us remember our religion lessons – by writing them over and over until are hands cramped while they walked up and down the desk aisles with a ruler in their hand.  I choose to enjoy the song for the silly little ditty it is. Rather than worry about its meaning, I’ll just think of what it reminds me of – happy holidays with family and friends. However, for those of you who are interested, here is the definition of the 12 Days of Christmas:

  1. The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ. A mother partridge is known so feign injury to distract prey from the helpless hatchlings.
  2. Two turtle doves – represents the Old and New Testaments.
  3. Three French Hens  – stood for faith, hope and love.
  4. Four Calling Birds – were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  5. Five Golden Rings – Five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
  6. Six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  7. Seven Swans a-Swimming –  the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Prophesy,Teaching, Serving,  Exhortation, Leadership, Contribution,  and Mercy.
  8. Eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes (my favorite is Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God).
  9. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Peace, Joy, Love, Kindness, Goodness, Patience,  Gentleness, Faithfulness,  and Self Control.
  10. Ten Lords-a-Leaping were the Ten Commandments.
  11. Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  12. Twelve Drummers Drumming – symbolized the twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed.

On behalf of myself and everyone at Wholesale Costume Club, we wish you a very Merry Christmas



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