During the Christmas Season, one of the most ubiquitous carols is the 12 Days of Christmas. It’s practically a staple in any Christmas Carol fest and sung by choirs. While you’re trying to remember what gift was given on a particular day (and trying desperately to catch your breath at the same time), have you ever wondered what those gifts mean? Surely no “true love” would give partridges in pear trees right?
From mid 1500 to early 1800, Roman Catholics in England could not openly practice their faith. As such, christmas songs became the avenue by which catechism was taught to the young. On the surface, Christmas carols appear like catchy ditties, but on a deeper level, these songs convey messages that only those of the same faith can understand.
So what’s behind the lyrics? According to an article published on the Catholic News Agency, the “True Love” referred to is not a romantic sweetheart but God the Father, and the 12 Days of Christmas actually represent the following:
a partridge in a pear tree – represents Jesus Christ who died on the cross, the same way a partridge would willingly sacrifice its life for its young.
two turtle doves – Old and New Testaments
three French hens – faith, hope and love
four calling birds – the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
five golden rings – 1st 5 books of the Old Testament
six geese a-laying – Six days of creation
seven swans a-swimming – Sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit (Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy)
eight maids a-milking – the eight beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)
nine ladies dancing – nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continency)
ten lords a-leaping – the Ten Commandments
eleven pipers piping – the eleven faithful Apostles
twelve drummers drumming – 12 points of belief in the Apostles Creed.
Who would have thought that Christmas Carols held so much meaning?