You know the Christmas Carol: On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeeee….
Last year, I received an email featuring Christmas trees from around the world.
Included were the “hidden meanings” behind the lyrics, such as leaping Lords, French hens, swimming swans, and a partridge that wouldn’t come out of the pear tree.
I pause to ponder how often stories become fact or unveil truths after enough time passes.
Is this true? Are there hidden meanings among the lines of this song? Or was it simply a song that after many years has been popularized and believed to be factual? At the end of this article, there are two links–one of them is to Snopes. You decide.
From 1558 until 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.
- The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 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–Prophecy, 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 belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone – and, remember, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the 12 days following December 25. The Christmas Season runs until Epiphany, January 6, also known as Armenian / Orthodox Christmas.
For more information
- The Meaning Behind “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” by Gretchen Passantino 1997
- Snopes claims falsehood as to The Twelve Days of Christmas
- 15 Fun Facts About Christmas Thank YOU Bob Finnie of PersonCare.net for this link.