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Anonymous asked in Society & CultureHolidaysOther - Holidays · 1 decade ago

What is the meaning of the 12 days of Christmas?

This might sound ignorant because I am not religious as most people are. The Jewish faith has Hanukkah which is 8 days. The Christmas holiday is December 25th. What faith celebrates 12 days of Christmas, as the song goes?

11 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    It's Christian. It's the 12 days that make up the Christmas season, from Christmas Day to Epiphany (Jan 6). Yes, the Christmas season doesn't start until Christmas. (The time before Christmas is the Advent season)

    hope this helps.

    btw, Shakespear's play "Twelveth Night" is about the 12th night of Christmas. people used to celebrate the 12 days a lot more back then

    Source(s): I'm a christian
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    These are their meanings:

    1 Partridge in a pear tree

    The One true God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ

    2 Turtle Doves

    The Old and New Testaments

    3 French Hens

    Faith, Hope and Charity

    4 Calling Birds

    The Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

    5 Golden Rings

    The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch" which contain the law condemning us of our sins.

    6 Geese A-laying

    The six days of creation

    7 Swans A-swimming

    The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith

    8 Maids A-milking

    The eight beatitudes

    9 Ladies Dancing

    The nine Fruits of the Spirit

    10 Lords A-leaping

    The ten commandments

    11 Pipers Piping

    The eleven faithful apostles

    12 Drummers Drumming

    The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed


    Merry Christmas!

  • 1 decade ago

    for easier understanding:

    The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

    Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

    Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

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

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

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

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

    The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

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

    The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

    The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

    The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of believing the Apostles' Creed.

  • 1 decade ago

    The Twelve Days of Christmas is probably the most misunderstood part of the church year among Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions. Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th but the following day is considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th).

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  • 1 decade ago

    I knew I had just read this somewhere!!!

    See below.....

    Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829 were prohibited by law to practice their faith either in public or private. It was illegal to be Catholic until Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England in 1829.

    "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the basics of their faith. In short, it was a coded-message, a memory aid. Since the song sounded like rhyming nonsense, young Catholics could sing the song without fear of imprisonment. The authorities would not know that it was a religious song.

    "The 12 Days of Christmas" is in a sense an allegory. Each of the items in the song represents something significant to the teachings of the Catholic faith. The hidden meaning of each gift was designed to help Catholic children learn their faith. The better acquainted one is with the Bible, the more these interpretations have significance.

    The song goes, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…"

    The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, but it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. i.e. the Church.

    1st Day: The partridge in a pear tree is Christ Jesus upon the Cross. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge because she would feign injury to decoy a predator away from her nestlings. She was even willing to die for them.

    The tree is the symbol of the fall of the human race through the sin of Adam and Eve. It is also the symbol of its redemption by Jesus Christ on the tree of the Cross.

    2nd Day: The "two turtle doves" refers to the Old and New Testaments.

    3rd Day: The "three French hens" stand for faith, hope and love—the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (1 Corinthians 13).

    4th Day: The "four calling birds" refers to the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

    5th Day: The "five golden rings" represents the first five books of the Bible, also called the Jewish Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

    6th Day: The "six geese a-laying" is the six days of creation.

    7th Day: The "seven swans a-swimming" refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

    8th Day: The "eight maids a milking " reminded children of the eight beatitudes listed in the Sermon on the Mount.

    9th Day: The "nine ladies dancing" were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

    10th Day: The "ten lords a-leaping" represents the Ten Commandments

    11th Day: The "eleven pipers piping" refers to the eleven faithful apostles.

    12th Day: The ‘twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of belief expressed in the Apostles’ Creed: belief in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, made man, crucified, died and arose on the third day, that he sits at the right hand of the father and will come again, the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.

    So the next time you hear "the Twelve Days of Christmas" consider how this otherwise non-religious sounding song had its origins in keeping alive the teaching of the Catholic faith.

  • 1 decade ago

    I remember hearing that the song was created for children to sing in celebration of Christmas, where the Christian religion was not accepted so the words were coded to represent people in that religion...starting with Jesus - Partridge in a pair tree all the way to the 12 Apostles, all numbers in between represent Christian figures.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    12 days of Christmas. It is a song. Haven't you heard of it?

  • 5 years ago

    Lots of great answers already for this

  • ?
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    Great answers, just what I was searching for.

  • 1 decade ago

    [edit] Origin

    The Twelve Days of Christmas is a children's rhyme that was originally published in a book called Mirth without Mischief in London around 1780. It was originally a memory and forfeit game and it was played by gathering a circle of players and each person took it in turns to say the first line of the rhyme. When it is the first player's turn again he says the second line of the verse and so on.

    100 years later the game and rhyme were adopted by Lady Gomme as a rhyme that "the whole family could have fun singing every twelfth night before Christmas before eating mince pies and twelfth cake".

    [edit] Festival

    These are the twelve days beginning on night of the 25th of December and ending on January 5th, the eve of the Feast of The Epiphany. In the Middle Ages this period was one of continuous feasting and merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season.

    During the twelve days of Christmas, traditional roles were often relaxed, masters waited on their servants, men were allowed to dress as women, and women as men. Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels. Some of these traditions were adapted from older, pagan customs, including the Roman Saturnalia. Some also have an echo in modern day pantomime where traditionally authority is mocked and the principal male lead is played by a woman, while the leading older female character, or 'Dame' is played by a man.

    Some people give gifts, feast and otherwise celebrate on each of the twelve days rather than just on one day at Christmas.

    [edit] Christmas Song

    The date of the song's first performance is not known, though it was used in European and Scandinavian traditions as early as the 16th century.

    [edit] Structure and lyrics

    "Twelve Days of Christmas" is a cumulative song, meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by "my true love" on one of the twelve days of Christmas.

    The first verse runs:

    On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

    A partridge in a pear tree

    The second verse:

    On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

    Two turtle doves,

    And a partridge in a pear tree

    ...and so forth. The last verse is:

    On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

    Twelve Drummers drumming

    Eleven Pipers piping

    Ten Lords a-leaping

    Nine Ladies dancing

    Eight maids a-milking

    Seven swans a-swimming

    Six geese a-laying

    Five golden (sometimes gold) rings

    Four calling (or colly) birds

    Three french hens

    Two turtle doves and

    A partridge in a pear tree

    The time signature of this song is not constant, unlike most popular music. The introductory lines, such as "On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me", are made up of two 4/4 bars, while most of the lines naming off gifts receive one 3/4 bar per gift with the exception of "Five golden rings", which receives two 4/4 bars, "Two turtle doves" getting a 4/4 bar with "And a" on its 4th beat and "Partridge in a pear tree" getting two 4/4 bars of music. In most versions, a 4/4 bar of music immediately follows "Partridge in a pear tree." "On the" is found in that bar on the 4th (pickup) beat for the next verse.

    There are many variations of this song in which the last four objects are arranged in a different order (for example — twelve lords a-leaping, eleven ladies dancing, ten pipers piping, nine drummers drumming). There are also many parodies of this song, or modernized versions.

    One way to interpret the lyrics of this song is that on each new day, all the gifts are given. This makes the total number of gifts given (counting 12 partridges, 22 turtle doves...) equal to 364, one fewer than the number of days in a year. There are 376 gifts if you count the pear tree as a separate gift from the partridge that resides in it. Of the 364 total items, 184 of them are birds, which is just over half of the gifts.

    It has been suggested by a number of sources over the years that the pear tree is in fact supposed to be perdrix, French for partridge and pronounced per-dree, and was simply copied down incorrectly when the oral version of the game was transcribed. The original line would have been: "A partridge, une perdrix."

    [edit] Symbolic interpretation

    Some Christians assign symbolism to the gifts in the song. One of the most common versions of these assigned meanings is:

    The 'partridge in a pear tree' means there is only one God and is also symbolic of Jesus (see Luke 13:34).

    The 'two turtle doves' are the Old and New Testaments.

    The 'three French hens' are the three Persons of the holy Trinity or the three virtues: faith, hope, and love, though according to Ace Collins' book "Stories of the Best Loved Christmas Songs", they represent the expensive gifts of the Wise Men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

    The 'four calling birds' are the Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; or their Gospels. Which makes sense because they are "calling" out the story.

    'Five gold rings' are the first five books of the Bible, or the Pentateuch.

    'Six geese a-laying' refer to the six days of the Creation.

    'Seven swans a-swimming' are the seven sacraments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    'Eight maids a-milking' are the eight Beatitudes.

    'Nine ladies dancing' are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.

    'Ten lords a-leaping' are the Ten Commandments.

    'Eleven pipers piping' are the eleven faithful Apostles.

    'Twelve drummers drumming' are the twelve doctrines in the Apostles' Creed.

    This interpretation is usually taught with a story, confirmed by Ace Collins, that British Catholics, suffering persecution in the 16th century, wrote the song with these hidden meanings. The song would have served as a pedagogical tool, however, some sources say that it was merely a "memory and forfeits game" originally played by children.

    [edit] Standard variations

    Sometimes "sent to me" is used instead of "gave to me"; also "five golden rings" is sometimes "five gold rings". Some argue that "gold" is correct and that "golden" is not. But because "gold" requires stretching into two syllables, the word "golden" seems to fit better. Additionally, some interpreters of the song argue that the five rings refer to coloring around the neck of birds such as pheasants, not jewelry.

    The line four calling birds is an Americanization of the traditional English wording four colly birds, and in some places, such as Australia, the variation calling is supplanting the original. Colly is a dialect word meaning black and refers to the European blackbird Turdus merula.

    The line four calling birds in some versions is four coiled birds. One version even had four mockingbirds.

    The line nine ladies dancing in some versions is nine ladies waiting. The ladies themselves are also called dames a-dancing, as was the case with Romeo Muller's TV special from the early 1990s (he had eleven dames a-dancing).

    In 1981, Hilary Knight, illustrator of the Eloise books, published "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" in the Weekly Reader Children's Book Club, and he had Ten Fiddlers Fiddling.

    As well, the last four verses are sometimes interchanged, so that one version of the song may have nine drummers, ten pipers, eleven ladies, twelve lords, or any other combination.

    Straight versions of The Twelve Days of Christmas has been covered by many popular modern artists and groups, such as Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, Perry Como, and Tennessee Ernie Ford. The most famous versions are those recorded by Roger Whittaker and the Ray Conniff Singers. Andy Williams rewrote the song into "A Song And A Christmas Tree" on his "Christmas Album".

    In Scotland early in the nineteenth century the song was started with:

    "The King sent his lady on the first Yule day,A popingo-aye (parrot) Wha learns my carol and carries it away?"

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