Dec 27, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas, What does it Mean?

Head on over to Rantings of a Simple Woman and pay Sharlene a visit and let her know you appreciate the details of one of the best known Christmas Carols (her post is repeated below).

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas? This week, I found out.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas pass it on if you wish.

So I would add, if you decide to pass it on, please make sure you credit Sharlene at Rantings of a Simple Woman.


  1. I had never read about that. Interesting!

  2. Hi Ken,
    Wow, that really is interesting. Thanks!

  3. Very interesting, I never knew this!

  4. Thanks for passing this on. Educational!

  5. I love learning new things!! I did NOT know this! Thank you!


  6. An enjoyable and informative read...

  7. Thank you for this intresting tidbit- Dannelle

  8. I had heard this before, but forgot it until I read it in your journal, Ken; thanks for posting it from Sharlene's journal; maybe I should copy it so I won't forget it again :)

    loved the pictures of the deer; so neat they are part of your little family and come up on your property! when we lived in Montana, it was always fun to see deer on the city streets (early morning or late evening hours); here in So. Calif. we see coyote; I'll take a deer over a coyote any day

    Happy New Year to you and Beth



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