After Christmas - 12 days unwrapped

Like some other well-known Christmas songs, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a very old carol, dating as far back as the 1500s. According to church tradition, the Christmas celebration lasted twelve days, beginning on Christmas Day, and extending to Epiphany, the traditional date for the visit of the Magi on January 6. In the 15th and 16th centuries, counting songs were very much in vogue, so a song about the Twelve Days of Christmas quickly became popular, but, there is an underlying message:  One group of Jesus’ followers had to hide their beliefs in order to avoid being tortured and killed, So, as you will hear, the Twelve Days of Christmas is really much more than just a cute counting song. It has rich symbolism in regard to Christian teachings. Yes, It sounds a bit odd,  French hens? Geese-a-laying? What do geese, golden rings, and leaping lords have to do with the Bible or doctrine? Maybe not a whole lot, but the song was used as a teaching tool, a mnemonic device to help remember important aspects of doctrine.


Now to explain the meaning of each gift.

To begin with, The partridge is an ancient Christian symbol of Christ; a small but valiant bird known for its willingness to die to save its young and the pear tree represents the cross on which Jesus died

Next come two turtledoves, a reminder of the Bible, having 2 Testaments Old and New which proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation to himself through his Son Jesus Christ

The three French hens stand for faith, hope and love, which are the primary holy virtues taught in the New Testament.

The four calling birds stand for the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The five gold rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament, which is called the Pentateuch, these give the historic account of mankind’s sinful failure and God’s responding grace

The Six Geese A-laying represent the six days of creation that confess God as creator and sustainer of the world

Seven Swans A-swimming stand for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion

Eight Maids A-milking are the eight beatitudes as listed in Matthew chapter 5

Nine Ladies Dancing  represent the nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

Ten Lords A-leaping are the ten commandments

Eleven Pipers Piping stand for the 11 faithful apostles,  Judas Iscariot, the 12th apostle who betrayed Jesus was excluded

Twelve Drummers Drumming represent the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed

1. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

2: And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

3: Who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

4: He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

5: He descended into hell and on the third day he arose again from the dead.

6: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

7: He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

8: I believe in the Holy Spirit,

9: the holy catholic Church and the Communion of Saints,

10: the forgiveness of sins,

11: the resurrection

12: And in life everlasting.

So when you sing this song in the future, hopefully you will be reminded of some of this explanation and it will bring a whole different meaning to the 12 days of Christmas.

If you want to sing the carol with these meanings next Christmas, or before, email and she will happlily send you her setting of it.