...And a partridge in a pear tree

The back story of the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

The Twelve days of Christmas is the period in Christian theology that marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through Jan. 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes also called Three Kings' Day).

In 1979, a Canadian hymnologist, Hugh D. McKellar, published an article, "How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas," claiming that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" lyrics were intended as a catechism song to help young Catholics learn their faith at a time when practicing Catholicism was criminalized in England.

McKellar offered no evidence for his claim and subsequently admitted that the purported associations were his own invention.

Even so, the premise is an interesting one and one thing historians can agree on is that the 12 days over which the song takes place is a reference to Christianity.

The alleged hidden meanings behind each element in the carol are:

1 - partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

2 - turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

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

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

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

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

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

8 - maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

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

10 - lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.

11 - pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

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


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