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