Thursday, January 6, 2011

On the Twelvth Day of Christmas...

...My True Love gave to me.

Ever wonder where the words to this song came from? I thought I'd provide a little history lesson for you today, as I try to get back to my blogging this year.

Today is Epiphany. The twelve days of Christmas are the twelve days between Christmas Day, Dec. 25th, the birth of Jesus, and the Epiphany, Jan. 6th, the day Christians celebrate the arrival of the Magi and the revelation of Christ as the light of the world.

The song dates from a time of religious persecution and was written as a kind of secret catechism that could be sung in public without fear of arrest - a learning or memory aid to Christians, in fact. Each element is code for a religious truth.
1. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus.
2. The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.
3. Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.
4. The four calling birds are the four Gospels.
5. The five gold rings recall the Hebrew Torah (Law), or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.
6. The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.
7. The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
8. The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.
9. Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
10. The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
11. Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful Apostles.
12. Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed.

If you think Jesus being symbolized as a partridge in a pear tree sounds blasphemous, remember:
"Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so." (Luke 13:34 and Matthew 23:34)
The "true love" in the song refers to God Himself.
The "me" receiving the gifts is every Christian.
So that "silly" song we sing at Christmas time has more meaning than we thought.


Anonymous said...

Hi Christmas Buddy!! Thanks for that little lesson - I'm so surprised...I always thought it was the 12 days prior to Christmas! That is so interesting - I love it! I'm going to use it with my Prayer Group this Wednesday evening (my turn to lead. Thank you so much!
Love you, Mama Lori

Anonymous said...

Hi sweet sister! I love knowing the history behind that song and can't wait to share it with the kids tomorrow morning. ;)

I love you and hope you are doing well settling back into your routine. We're just now taking our Christmas tree down!! Oh well! Give our love to Scott. :)

Love ya,

jeny said...

Yes! I love the story behind the song; I had learned this several years ago when I was studying the early church.
Your post is such a lovely reminder. I love you!