On this “in-between” week, I thought we would do something fun for our message. We’ve all heard of Hallmark’s “25 days of Christmas” or their “Countdown to Christmas.” Today, we are going to chat about the 12 days of Christmas.
We all have heard and sung the catchy and crazy accumulative Christmas song about the 12 days of Christmas and the many gifts our “true love” gives to us. We have even heard Jeff Foxworthy’s spoof on this song. It’s fun to sing, if a bit confusing. There are several versions of “the gifts” out there – especially as you get higher up in the days.
So, let’s take a look at the song, and explore each of the days’ gifts.
When are the 12 days of Christmas?
The earliest known written version of the “12 Days of Christmas,” which was printed without accompanying music, goes back to 1780 and the English children’s book, Mirth With-out Mischief. However, many scholars believe the poem is French in origin and started out as a game to test memory that revelers played at Twelfth Night parties. The song can be a bit challenging, especially if you have been enjoying the Christmas spirits a bit. The rules were that if you forgot the words, you’d have to give your opponent a kiss or grant them a favor (Gleeson).
Over the years, the cumulative verse poem, “where each patterned verse contributes to a longer narrative” – shifted and changed over the centuries. It wasn’t until 1909, when English composer Frederic Austin added music to the poem (Gleeson).
Some even believed that this poem/song was written and used as an “underground catechism” to help share the important tenants of the Catholic faith in England during the period of 1558 to 1829 when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England. During this time period, it was prohibited by law for ANY to practice their faith – private OR public. It was a crime to BE a Catholic (Stockert).
There is varying information on this claim. So, whether you believe this is true or not, using the 12 Days of Christmas song to help young people and adults alike remember important parts of our faith is a pretty creative way to do so. Let’s take a look and see:
Each verse of the song begins with: On the # day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…… According to the articles I found on-line,
We are going to take a look at the song verse by verse without repeating the previous days. We will sing the verse, then pause briefly to talk about the Christian “meaning” given to it according to Dennis Bratcher’s article posted in 2005. We will do that through all 12 days, then we will repeat Day 12 and test our memories and go through all of the 11 previous days. So, let’s start the song.
On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: A partridge in a pear tree.
On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 2 Turtle Doves.
On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 3 French Hens.
On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 4 Calling Birds.
On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 5 Golden Rings.
On the 6th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 6 Geese A-laying.
On the 7th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 7 Swans A-swimming.
On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 8 Maids A-milking.
On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 9 Ladies Dancing.
On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 10 Lords A-leaping.
On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 11 Piper’s Piping.
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 12 Drummers Drumming.
Well, it’s a good thing they didn’t include this language in the poem, it would be very hard to sing the verses. But, it is extremely useful in helping us boil the key elements of our faith down into easy to remember chunks.
Let’s sing the song one more time starting with Day 12 and adding each of the previous day’s gifts as the song invites us to.
The next time you hear or sing the song, 12 days of Christmas, remember that there is always more to a song that just what the lyrics share. The meaning behind the words has a story to tell. And for those of us who are Christians, there is definitely more to the story. We are to remember that the core reason we celebrate this holiday – this HOLY DAY – is because God Loved us so much that God was willing to give us the ultimate gift – God’s self, wrapped up in flesh and bone, in the form of a vulnerable baby whom we could all love and grow with as we forged a closer relationship with God through him. I hope this Christmas has provided you with the opportunity to renew that relationship once again.
May it be so….. AMEN
Bratcher, Dennis, Article “The Twelve Days of Christmas” published in 2005. http://www.crivoice.org/cy12days.html
Gleeson, Jill, article “Here’s What to Know About the 12 Days of Christmas Meaning”, printed Nov 20, 2019. https://www.countryliving.com/entertaining/a29832797/12-days-of-christmas-meaning/
Stockert, Hall (Father), article “Origin of The Twelve Days of Christmas” An Underground Catechism https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/origin-of-the-twelve-days-of-christmas-10885?keyword=&mt=b&loc=9006758&n=g&d=c&adp=1t2&cid=8641161795&adgid=90568226081&tid=dsa-19959388920&gclid=Cj0KCQiA0ZHwBRCRARIsAK0Tr-rwcmLzyQNTaaVDc9x-INGTWTle5dIVtB_23kK2WVw821mGC384aKEaAkoeEALw_wcB