Explanation of the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
| The Hidden Meaning of the Words as Tradition|
The song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," so popular today in secular circles during this time of year, was actually a secret catechism based on the Truths of the Roman Catechism of Trent. This abbreviated code was sung by Roman Catholics after the Reformation in many countries such as England where they were not allowed to practice their faith. Thus, in similar fashion as the early Christians used the symbol of the fish, so also persecuted and deprived faithful Catholics sought to communicate with fellow Catholics to truly celebrate the Faith underground. Paramount was the Birth of Jesus Christ as the Savior in the Catholic tradition. By singing this song, they could communicate without fear of reprisal. Thus they formed this "carol" which represented "religious reality" in symbols. This also held true during the persecutions of the French Revolution.
The "True Love" is God the Father. The Partridge in a pear tree is the Holy Trinity - in particular the Holy Spirit (the Dove) and Jesus Christ Who is known as the "Second Adam". We all know that the fall of man derived around an apple tree. A pear tree ties into this analogy and elevates the redemption.
The carol, as was reported several years ago in Our Sunday Visitor, was written by the English Jesuits of the 16th century as a catechetical device and it is far from filled with nonsensical verses.
The carol is akin to the apocalyptic literature of Scripture that used obscure symbols to hide its true meaning from the enemy in time of persecution. To understand the background that gave rise to the carol, let us look briefly at the history of Catholicism in 16th century England.
When Henry VIII was rebuffed by Rome in his bid to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, he declared himself head of the Church in England replacing the Pope and demanded that all swear an oath of allegiance to him as such. St. Thomas More, the Chancellor of the Realm, the equivalent of the Prime Minister today, refused the oath supporting the elimination of the Pope's authority and Henry had him publicly beheaded. Catholic convents and monasteries were closed and looted. The situation was worse under his son, Edward VI, and better during the short reign of Catherine's daughter, Mary Tudor. She was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I, an ardent Protestant, the daughter of Anne Boleyn. The practice of the Catholic Faith was banned. Priests were exiled and forbidden under pain of death from returning or performing the sacraments. It was a desperate, dreadful time.
But many priests risked their lives to come back and minister to the flock and many lay Catholics likewise risked their lives and fortunes to hear Mass and have their children baptized. Wealthy families built hiding places, called priests' holes, in their homes to hide priests in case their homes were raided by the secret police.
The story is told of one priest who was almost caught in a surprise raid. He had just time to squeeze into his hole before the police broke in on the family. The police had obviously received a tip because they went right to the fireplace where the priest's hole was located. But try as they might, they couldn't find the entrance. Then in their frustration they ordered a fire to be lit to drive out the priest. When he didn’t emerge, because to do so would subject the host family to prison or death, they ordered more logs on the fire. Eventually all were driven from the room by the intense heat and the police left in disgust. The family rushed to get the priest out of the hole but he was already dead, baked alive. He gave his life under cruel circumstances to save those whom he had come to serve. And he was only one of many.
With this as a background we can see the need for secrecy and deception. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written to educate the faithful in the doctrines of the faith and yet not be obvious to the persecutors. The numbers are simply a mnemonic to help Catholics remember some basic facts of their holy Faith.
Below we describe each day of Christmas and the hidden Catholic meaning to the song. Many, dumbed down by secularism,do not realize that the Twelve Days of Christmas are after Christmas - not before, and cover the timebetween Christmas Day and the Feast of Epiphany which is traditionally celebrated on January 6th.
"On the first day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, a Partridge in a pear tree."
So many have misinterpreted the Twelve Days of Christmas
with a secular meaning, but they fail to realize that, in fact, they were a "secret catechism code" sung
by persecuted Roman Catholics from the Protestant Reformation through the French Revolution. It was their way of communicating their faith much in the same manner the early Christians did with symbols such as the fish. The first day is a given since Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas and the "Partridge in a pear tree" represents Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the King
Whose Social Kingship for all nations every faithful Catholic must strive for.
"On the second day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, two turtledoves."
The two turtledoves represent the Old and New Testaments
- the Word of God which over the years has been so watered down by "interpretations and political correctness" that often it loses
its true meaning and must be properly discerned through the Church's reliance on the Holy Ghost
. Contrary to so much syncretistic novelties and concessions to the Jews, while the Old Covenant is treasured by Holy Mother Church for its roots, the New Covenant established by Christ takes priority and reinforces the meaning and fulfillment of the Old Testament.
"On the third day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, three French hens."
The three French hens represent the Three theological Virtues of FAITH, HOPE and CHARITY
which enabled Catholics to stay in the state of grace by practicing and promulgating these vital virtues when the sacraments were not readily available. So also today when, because of the plethora of aberrations in the Novus Ordo
rite and the novelties and modernist novelties that exist everywhere,
the sacraments are not readily available either and so Traditional Catholics must reinforce in their thoughts, words and deeds these theological virtues. In the face of the warped logic of conciliar catholics and their empty resolutions all void of defense by the infallible, perennial Magisterium of the Church, it takes great fortitude, patience and, yes, charity. Faith and Hope spur Traditional Catholics on just as Traditional Catholics were encouraged in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
"On the fourth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, four calling birds."
The four calling birds represent the four Gospels
where truly the Word of God through Jesus
and His life for all
of us to emulate was recorded. Since Catholics were not allowed to keep bibles or preach during those times, they reinforced others through the song to read the Gospels in private and live it, and not to subscribe to the altered version known as the King James Bible, but to remain true to the Latin Vulgate translated by the great Doctor of the Church Saint Jerome
"On the fifth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, five Golden Rings."
The five golden rings represent both the first Five Books of the Old Testament
or the Pentatuch
which are 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy,
which gives the history of humanity's sinful failure and God's response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world. It was meant to remind fellow Catholics of the roots and, after the devotion became more widespread and known, the Five Decades of the Rosary
and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
"On the sixth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, six geese a-laying."
The six geese a-laying represent the six days God
took to create the earth, the universe, and all creatures. It was a way for all Catholics to remind fellow faithful and
be reminded that, despite persecution, they were not second-class citizens but rather first-class children of God and rightful heirs to His mansions in the Heavenly regions if they persevered in the One, True Faith. It encouraged all Catholics, in the face of great apostasy, to believe and adhere the first dogma of the Church, "Extra Ecclesia Salus Nullum"
- "Outside the Church, there is no salvation." Thus the sixth day represents the sixth day octave of Christmas and Creation
"On the seventh day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, seven swans a-swimming."
The seven swans a-swimming represent the Seven Sacraments
established by Jesus Christ
as well as
the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost
. With the Sacraments and Gifts Catholics could sustain themselves through the dark times and encourage others at this holy time of the year with this Christmas song, reminding each other of the wondrous glory of God and His munificence on the seventh day of the octave of Christmas.
"On the eighth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, eight maids a-milking."
The eight maids a-milking represent the Eight Beatitudes
preached by Jesus Christ
on His sermon on the mount and which Catholics, no matter how persecuted, could practice good deeds through the Beatitudes and gain great consolation and courage from these. They are
1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, all recorded in St. Matthew 5:3-10 and also are incorporated into the Lord's Prayer Pater Noster
said not only at every Holy Mass, but within the Rosary as well.
"On the ninth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, nine ladies dancing."
The nine ladies dancing is not about partying but rather the Nine Fruits of the Holy Ghost
as described in Galatians 5: 22 - "But the fruit of the Spirit is: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, modesty and continency."
These fruits helped Catholics to practice the virtues and remind fellow
Catholics how to stay out of harm's way as far as their souls were concerned.It can also represent the Nine Choirs of Angels
: 1) Angels
, 2) Archangels
, 3) Principalities
, 5) Virtues
, 6) Dominions
, 7) Thrones
, 8) Cherubim
, and the highest of all: 9) Seraphim
"On the tenth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping."
The ten lords a-leaping symbolize the Law of God
- the Ten Commandments
. It was not a leap to obey the Ten Commandments given to Moses
on Mount Sinai for the Protestants, who were persecuting the Catholics of those times and countries, also believed in the Ten Commandments,
but the reference to "lords" was in reference to the rich and powerful for they were the ones who could change the laws that governed persecution and curtailment of the Catholic Faith. Yet it was the "lords" who were lax in obeying God's laws and Catholics wanted to remind their fellow Catholics that no matter how wealthy or spoiled the princes were, faith and perseverance was more important by reminding them of the law of ages. Remember also that only one Bishop resisted the King - St. John Fisher
"On the eleventh day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, eleven pipers piping."
The eleven pipers piping stood for the Eleven Faithful Apostles who stuck with Jesus when seemingly all others had abandoned Him. They were referred to as "pipers" for they indeed were sent out to all corners to spread the Gospel as Our Lord
had commanded and, like the "Pied Piper of Hamlin" they attracted many to the One, True Faith. It was a way for Catholics to remind their fellow faithful to keep this in mind during the hard times for all but Saint John
were persecuted and martyred for the faith. If they remained faithful to their Faith and to Jesus, they too would one day enjoy the same rewards of Heavenly bliss.
"On the twelfth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming."
The twelve drummers drumming represented the Twelve Points or Articles of Belief in the APOSTLES' CREED
It's interesting that Catholics
chose drummers for their symbolism for to keep reminding each other of the twelve points of the solid creed known as the Apostles' Creed for this was their profession of faith and there was a constant need to keep hammering home this point or should we say "bang the drum" so fellow Catholics would get the "beat" and get into a rhythm of their religion, encouraged by all Jesus promised and professed in the Creed.