The 12 days of Christmas
19 Jan 2000
When most people hear "The 12 days of Christmas" they think of the song. This song had it's origins as a teaching tool to instruct young people in the meaning and content of the Christian faith.
From 1558 to 1829 Roman Catholics in England were not able to practice their faith openly so they had to find other ways to pass on their beliefs. The song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is one example of how they did it.
The song goes, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...". The "true love" represents God and the "me" who receives these presents is the Christian. The "partridge in a pear tree" was Jesus Christ who died on a tree as a gift from God.
The "two turtle doves" were the Old and New Testaments-another gift from God.
The "three French hens" were faith, hope and love-the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (1Corinthians 13).
The "four calling birds" were the four Gospels which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The "five golden rings" were the first five books of the Bible also called the "Book of Moses."
The "six geese a-laying" were the six days of creation.
The "seven swans a swimming" were "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit." (1Corinthians 12:9-11, Romans 12, Ephsesians 4, 1Peter 4:10-11)
The "eight maids a milking" were the eight beatitudes.
The "nine ladies dancing" were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
The "ten lords a-leaping" were the Ten Commandments.
The "eleven pipers piping" were the eleven faithful disciples.
The "twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of the Apostles' Creed.
So the next time you hear "The 12 Days of Christmas" consider how this otherwise non-religious sounding song had its origins in the Christian Faith.
The Truth: http://truthorfiction.com/rumors/t/twelvedaysofchristmas.htm
TruthOrFiction.com has not found any Catholic or non-Catholic historical or scholarly reference that supports this allegation. None of the hundreds of emails or citations of this story on the net that we've seen includes any credible source. Most have no source at all, but those that do most often cite an article published on the Catholic Information Network in 1995. It was authored by Fr. Hal Stockert of Fishnetsite and appears to be the spark of the eRumor.
On the other hand, there are several sources that list the song as being of probable French origin. The most notable is the prestigious New Oxford Book of Carols which not only cites the French roots of the song, but says it is based on a game that children would play on the Twelfth Night, the eve of Epiphany. In the game, each child would have to try to remember and recite the objects that were said by a previous child. If successful, the child would add another object to the list for the next contestant to recite. If not, the child dropped out. The game would continue until there was a winner.
There are also other problems with the catechism theory. The assumption behind it is that the song allowed Catholics to secretly embrace their beliefs behind the backs of non-Catholic Christian leaders during a time when being a practicing Catholic was against the law, for example under Anglican rule. None of the doctrines said to be represented in the Twelve Days of Christmas, however, was different from the beliefs of Anglicans or even Presbyterians. There is also the question that if the song was that important for teaching or remembering doctrine, why was it associated only with Christmas? One final note is that the first printed version of the song is said to be in the children's book "Mirth Without Mischief" published in 1780 and that describes the song in similar terms as the Oxford Book of Carols.