There really are TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – the liturgical name for this season is Christmastide. The reckoning of these days begins with Christmas Day and includes the Feast Day of Saint Stephen (Dec. 26th) Good King Wenceslas, Saint John the Evengelist (Dec. 27), The Holy Innocents (Dec. 28th) The Coventry Carol, and concludes on “Twelfth Night” (Jan.5th) and followed by The Feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6th) We Three Kings.
The Urban Myth of the origin of this carol is fascinating even though it is a myth –teaching the Church’s catechism (system of beliefs) during a time of great persecution. The origin of this ‘catechism’ is of little importance to us. However, the connections this makes to the broader Christian catechism is helpful none the less. With the further secularization of Advent-Christmastide, with Frosty, Rudolph and Santa being more well known than Jesus, Mary, shepherds and Magi, I say sing the song and pass on the message. The more our children here these connections the better chance they’ll have to know Jesus as the CHRIST in Christmas.
- The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus.
- The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.
- Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.
- The four calling birds are the four Gospels.
- The five gold rings recall the Hebrew Torah (Law), or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.
- The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.
- The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.
- Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
- The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
- Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful Apostles.
- Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed.
The “true love” in the song refers to God and the “me” receiving the gifts is every Christian.
A Joyous Christmastide & Epiphany to all!