Twelve Days of Christmas

I think most of us are familiar with “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song. To most it’s just a delightful nonsense rhyme set to music. But “Twelve Days of Christmas” had a secret code in it, though it’s no longer a secret now. The song is a good deal more than just a repetitious melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange gifts.

Let’s go back in time, shall we, dear readers? Catholic was banned in England during the period 1558 to 1829. Queen Elizabeth I of Protestant faith saw fit to have it ban as the Church impose a threat to the monarchical system, where the Bishop have more power over the country than Kings and Queens. So when the Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, they were prohibited from any practice of their faith by law – private or public. So, to make the long story short, it’s simply a crime to even be a Catholic in England at that time.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written in England as one of the “catechism songs” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith. The song is some sort of a memory aid. It is important to note that when someone was caught with anything in writing indicating adherence to the Catholic faith, they could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged, drawn, quartered and many other peculiar and ghastly punishment.

Hanging, drawing and quartering involved hanging a person by the neck until they had almost, but not quite, suffocated to death, then the victim was taken down from the gallows, and disembowelled while still alive and while the entrails were still lying on the street, where the executioners stomped all over them, the victim was tied to four large farm horses, and literally torn into five parts – one to each limb and the remaining torso.

All right, enough of the extremely gory details. Let’s go back to the song, Twelve Days of Christmas.

The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The ‘True love’ mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself.

The ‘me’ who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The ‘partridge in a pear tree’ is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so…”

The other symbols mean the following:

2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the ‘Pentateuch’, which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.
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

Below is a video of the song in question:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8Jbi-BBp3c]

And this is the modern one inspired by Twelve Days of Christmas

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VraaEaOzYQ]

Cleffairy: There’s so many secret and mysteries about Christmas, and it amuse me to see that kids these days are not intrigue by it.

23 comments

  1. ggw_bach says:

    awesome article! the symbolism is quite revealing. And I just watched an Xmas episode of Top Chef where this song was a theme. Hidden meanings indeed!

  2. cleffairy says:

    ggw_bach, thank you for visiting and dropping your kind words here for me. πŸ˜€ have a merry Xmas with your family and loved ones.

    kellaw
    , wrong la… they dun really care about presents only, but they care about sex parties, alcohol, and the list goes on.

    kikey
    …whoa… your English tutors gave you infos on Xmas? I learn about it from my dad.

    Pete… frankly speaking, I can only remember the symbols until 5 calling birds… lol…the rest is… let’s say it’s just history to me. LOL.

  3. calvin says:

    as for me, as to whether Christmas or Christ Mass or whatever, the birth of Christ marks a giant leap in human history, at least to Christians. i dont really listen to carols about santa, or presents and what not, just carols from the church hymnals. and i remain steadfast in my belief by actions and thoughts and not partying day and night like one with rabbies. but its pretty boring at home. gonna go up kemaman for makan2 again…..hehehehe. gonna post some pictures for you to drool…lol. kalau marah2, go gigit your hubby. my treat….lmao

  4. Krista says:

    Clef: Great information. I didn’t know that. Thanks for making me a bit wiser. By the way, I love this song to bits. And now that I know it’s symbolic, I would still sing it despite not being a Christian/Catholic. Yes, yes, I have friends who would tersely remind me that they are CHRISTIANS and not CATHOLICS as if being a Catholic was a disease! Aiyoh. Anyway, merry Christmas to you Clef. Your blog always makes me a lot learned haha. Thanks for the great, thought-provoking posts! Happy New Year and let’s hope 2009 isn’t as dour as everyone thinks it is.

  5. cleffairy says:

    Calvin…true, Jesus’s birth contributed a lot to the human history… and frankly speaking, I dun think Jesus’s existence affected only the Christian, I think it affected humankind in many ways. Ways of life, ways of thinking, etc etc. Actually, i dun really listen to those modern carols either, except for this Janice Dickinson’s one, I thought it’s pretty funny… lmao… say it on TV last year… lol… OMG, you makan makan endlessly… watch your cholesterol la, bro… dun overdo it… wait your stomach cannot take it. LOL… yeah, you bet I geram… lol… if I go gigit my hubby tonight, I’ll just tell him, it’s Calvin’s fault… LMAO.

    Krista… *sigh* some non-Catholics are quite against Catholics… especially the extreme protestants, and til this very day, I have no idea why. Perhaps they disagree on some Catholics view on the religion, I suppose. Strange… Catholics are part of Christianity, are they not? Another thing one should ponder on. I know a few friend who are Protestant and fell in love with a Catholic, and when the church found out that they wanted to be married, they were miscommunicate from the church… WTF! I was so shocked to hear such thing… such news are a bit extreme for me to take in, as I see them as Christian, people of the same faith, not as Protestant or a Catholic. πŸ™ Neway, Happy new year to you too. πŸ˜€ Let’s hope for a more successful year ahead.

    Chris
    …*sigh* no money to go shopping frenzy lahh…

    Raynebow… Ah, hi there, long time din see you here… πŸ˜› Merry Xmas and a happy new year to you too.

  6. Dreamkid says:

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2 u Cleffairy!

    If you aren’t Christian it’s high time you became one.

    Even me as a Catholic don’t know as much as you do. Lol.

  7. cleffairy says:

    Dreamkid… lol… yups yups, merry xmas and a happy new year to you and your loved ones too. LOL… learning about facts and fictions on all religion is good, at least you know what is true, and what is just myth. I din know you’re a Catholic… I trust you had a great Xmas? πŸ˜›

  8. cleffairy says:

    =.= ohh, kids kah? LOL…paiseh, I thought the adults la… well, actually it depends on how the kids were raised, I guess. If they’re from a very religious base, where they are thought the real meaning of Xmas, they would be more giving than receiving… but you’re right, most kids these days are just after the pressies…

  9. suituapui says:

    Hahahahaha!!! I’m like peteformation…not good at remembering things like that! Btw, did you get to see the parody – “The 12 gays of Christmas” on youtube? I saw once – quite x-rated and then it was removed/gone. LOL!!!

  10. kellaw says:

    and adults, their virgin girls on the eve(guys)/their true love(girls)

    the rest?none of our problems liao. sex is the best pressies.
    btw someone couriered me a pack of condoms from UK. lol

  11. claire says:

    wow.. u really did a good research on Christmas…for me as a christian, this is a time where my family, my siblings get together for this festive day to spread the love of christ to our fellow relatives whom we will invite to our house for a big makan… then, we worship and give testimonials… it is a get together thingy … after this, we go our separate ways back to our normal routine … and wait for the next special day ie the chinese new year..

  12. cleffairy says:

    Cikgu… wah, you saw such thing on youtube? You’re lucky la… lol… youtube usually dun allow such thing. Such thing will be removed almost instantly by youtube la, usually. But if you search on youtube, there are a lot of ‘dirty’ Xmas songs which I found very amusing.

    Kellaw… enjoy your condoms, okay? Dun overdo it la, bro. πŸ˜›

    Claire… I suppose this is how I show my Xmas spirit…either that, or I have too much time to spare. LOL… anyway, good to know you spent quality times with your family. Neway, I haven’t greet you yet, so merry Xmas and a happy new year to you and your family, Claire.

    Uncle Greg
    , lols…. no problem… πŸ˜› Merry Xmas and a happy new year to you and your family.

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