Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christian Meaning of the "Twelve Days of Christmas"

There is a controversial view that the "Twelve Days of Christmas" have a Christian origin:

1. The "true Love" is God. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34)
2. Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
3. French Hens refers to faith, hope, and love
4. Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels or the Four Evangelists
5. Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6. Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
7. Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion
8. Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
9. Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10. Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
11. Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
12. Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed"

I think it's most likely that the song was originally more secular, and then someone has reverse-engineered Christian symbolism into the lyrics. Still it's a fun way to think about it!


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