The Story Behind the 12 Days of Christmas
The 12 Days of Christmas goes all the way back to the 16th century. The only legal religion of that time was the Church of England. Catholics in Britain could be punished with death for practicing their religious traditions. And so, the 12 Days of Christmas was written to help their children learn about God.
Each of the items in the song represents something of religious significance. The song goes, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." This phrase is repeated in each verse to emphasis the importance of Christ's death and resurrection, the anchor of faith. The "true love" represents God and the "me" who receives these presents is the Christian. Here we go.....
Partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ who died on a tree as a gift from God.
The 2 turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
The 3 French hens were faith, hope, and love - the 3 gifts of the Spirit.
The 4 calling birds were the 4 Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John.
The 5 golden rings were the first 5 books of the Bible also called the "Books of Moses" - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy.
The 6 geese a-laying were the 6 days of creation.
The 7 swans a-swimming were the seven gits of the Holy Spirit - prophesy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, & mercy.
The 8 maids a-milking were the 8 beatitudes - Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker, & the righteous.
The 9 ladies dancing were the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control.
The 10 lords a-leaping were the 10 Commandments.
The 11 pipers piping were the original 11 apostles who took the message of Christ's life & resurrection to the world.
The 12 drummers drumming were the 12 points of the Apostles' Creed.
Now you know the rest of the story. Even now, over 400 years later, The 12 Days of Christmas has been recorded many times and is for the most part, a very secular song. But now when you hear it, you too can know the hidden meaning in the silly verses created so long ago by a persecuted religion.
**Information courtesy of "Stories Behind the Best Love Songs of Christmas" by Ace Collins
**The Mary T. & Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation