Twelve Days of Christmas

The song “Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English Christmas carol published around the beginning of 18th century. Its earliest first known version appeared in a children’s book called “Mirth With-out Mischief”.
A first edition of that latter publication, containing the song, was sold for $23,750 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2014.

Initially it was possibly a secular French song in origin and not a Catholic Carol as some would claim. Many people believe it was written by members of the Roman Catholics persuasion, who continued to practise their faith in secret, during the reign of the English Queen Elizabeth I, to thus avoid religious persecution.
Its lyrics are believed to have been written in an effort to teach young children the articles of the Roman Catholic faith, without drawing the attention of Queen Elizabeth’s officials. Thus the song uses imagery, to help children to remember articles of faith.

To the non-religious person, the song merely represents the giving of expensive gifts during each of the twelve days of Christmas, courtesy of, as the song state, “my true love”.
Many people also believe that the song was intended to be a ‘memory and forfeits’ game, where players would have to recite a verse and with an agreement by those taking part to pay some sort of light-hearted penalty, like the giving of a token or kiss, if they failed to remember the gifts in the correct order.

Personally, I have never heard it sung in any Christian Church, but to many religious believers it represents a ‘Christianity code’ to secretly pass on certain Christian ideology, with the various 12 gifts meaning as follows:-

  1. Partridge = Jesus Christ, the Son of God whose birthday we celebrate on the first day of Christmas. Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge, a bird that will die to protect its young. The partridge in a pear tree is therefore symbolic of Christ being crucified on the Cross.
  2. Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments.
  3. French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, The Theological Virtues.
  4. Calling Birds = The Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists.
  5. Gold Rings = The First Five Books of the Old Testament.
  6. Geese A-laying = The Six Days of Creation.
  7. Swans A-swimming = The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  8. Maids A-milking = The Eight Beatitudes.
  9. Ladies Dancing = The Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit. [Fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control].
  10. Lords A-leaping = The Ten Commandments.
  11. Pipers Piping = The Eleven Faithful Apostles.
  12. Drummers Drumming = The Twelve Points of Doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed.

Note: The 12 days of Christmas are commonly thought of as being from December 25th; the birth date of Jesus Christ, to January 5th; the supposed arrival date of the “Three Wise Men” or Magi, [Latter 3 priests believed to be of the Zoroastrianism faith, an Iranian religion, and one of the world’s oldest organized faiths].


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