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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Rick Wilkes has written the following and I thought it would be of interest to all. This is his article printed in its entire form. Thanks Rick. This is what happens when we are not tolerant of others.

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

From 1558 to 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

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.
Four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke &John.
Five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
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.
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.
Ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
Twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening. Now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol…


At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Gary said...

Have nicked this for my blog hope you don't mind. Many thanks/

At 2:27 PM, Blogger B O B said...

Not a problem at all Gary.

At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an urban myth. Think about it.

First, the song contains no cathechism uniquely Catholic.

Second, the church in England was anti-Papist, but had the same theology as Catholics, same churches, same altars, same priests and bishops, same beliefs in purgatory, Mary and other Catholic teachings. All that happened in 1531 was that King Henry VIII's ego got the better of him and he decided that being king, he was in charge of the church not the Pope. The English churches came under new management, not new theology or liturgies. The only time Catholicism differed from the Church of England was during the reign of Cromwell and his son.

Third, the song was and is NOT used by Catholics to teach their children catechism.

Its a great myth, but myth it is...

At 7:07 AM, Blogger B O B said...

thank you for your comment anonymous. You provided me with a lot of food for thought and reasons to look around for more ideas on this. I thought about addressing this here, but the more deeper I got into this subject it seems more appropriate for a new post.

You're thoughts of this being an urban myth does have some credit. However, with all myths there may be some basis in fact. And I think the meaning of what each of the days and gifts have do have some religious relevance. I plan to offer these ideas in a new post on the subject in the next couple of days.

Thanks again anonymous.


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