The Hidden Meaning of the Words |
The song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," so popular today in secular circles during this time a year, was actually a secret "catechism" sung by Roman Catholics after the
Reformation in many countries such as England where they were not allowed to practice their faith. Thus, to
communicate with fellow Catholics and truly celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ as the Savior in the Catholic tradition without fear of reprisal, 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.
Below we describe each day of Christmas and the hidden Catholic meaning to the song. Many
do not realize that the Twelve Days of Christmas are after Christmas - not before, and cover the time
between Christmas Day and the Feast of Epiphany which had traditionally been celebrated on January 6th.
Tuesday, DECEMBER 25:
"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.
Wednesday, DECEMBER 26:
"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 Spirit.
Thursday, DECEMBER 27:
"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.
Friday, DECEMBER 28:
"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.
Saturday, DECEMBER 29:
"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 reminded 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.
Sunday, DECEMBER 30:
"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. Thus the sixth day represents the sixth day octave of Christmas and Creation.
Monday, DECEMBER 31:
"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 Spirit. 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.
Tuesday, JANUARY 1:
"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.
Wednesday, JANUARY 2:
"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 Spirit as described in Galatians 5: 22 - "But the fruit of the Spirit is: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, modedesty 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.
Thursday, JANUARY 3:
"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.
Friday, JANUARY 4:
"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.
Saturday, JANUARY 5:
"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.
December 24-January 6, 2002
volume 12, no. 162
TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS