And a partridge in a pear treeeee!
Years from our childhood, we still have this tune echoing in our heads if we hear anyone mention “12 days of Christmas”. And humming this tune is THE thing do in the coming Christmas season. But do we really know what we are talking about? The numbers mentioned in the song may seem acceptable as they are adjacent digits. But apparently the chosen numbers are not seemingly random, but infact represent something religiously significant.
Some believe that the 12 days mentioned in the song are the 12 days starting with Christmas Day to the Day of Epiphany on the 6th of January. The twelve days in the song are the twelve days starting with Christmas Day, or in some traditions, the day after Christmas (December 26) (Boxing Day or St. Stephen’s Day, as being the feast day of St. Stephen Protomartyr), to the day before Epiphany, or the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6, or the Twelfth Day). Twelfth Night is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking.”
In popular belief, many believe that the song describes gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The hidden meaning of each gift was designed to help young Christians learn their faith. The song goes, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”
The “true love” represents God and the “me” who receives these presents is the Christian. Here you go:
The “partridge in a pear tree” was Jesus Christ who died on a tree as a gift from God.
The “two turtle doves” were the Old and New Testaments – another gift from God.
The “three French hens” were faith, hope and love – the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (I Corinthians 13).
The “four calling birds” were the four Gospels which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The “five golden rings” were the first five books of the Bible also called the “Books of Moses”.
The “six geese a-laying” were the six days of creation.
The “seven swans a swimming” were the “seven gifts of the Holy Spirit”. (I Corinthians 12:8-11; Romans 12, Ephesians 4; I Peter 4:10-11).
The “eight maids a milking” were the eight beatitudes.
The “nine ladies dancing” were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22 & 23)
The “ten lords a-leaping” were the Ten Commandments.
The “eleven pipers piping” were the eleven faithful disciples.
The “twelve drummers drumming” were the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed.
And there we have it. Go forth and be merry!