Never in our thoughts, as we sing every Christmas, that this iconic song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” has the rightful symbolism, making us more engaged in the celebration of sharing and giving. To most of us, the sequence of songs would give us the best feeling of joy celebrating the Birth of Christ.
The true meaning of the song moves my mind, body and soul; and for everybody, this is a great singing experience on this Christmas season.
The Song “The Twelve Days of Christmas is an English Christmas Carol. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholic in England was 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 the Church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember. To fit the number scheme, when you reach number 9, representing the Fruits of the Holy Ghost, the originator combined 6 to make 3, taking the 6 fruits that were similar: the fruit in each parenthesis is the that was not named separately. There are actually Twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost.
The “True Love” one hears in the song is not a smitten boy or girlfriend but Jesus Christ, because truly Love was born on Christmas Day. The partridge in the pear tree also represents Him that bird is willing to sacrifice its life if necessary to protect its young by feigning injury to draw away predators.
According to Ann Ball in her book, “Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals:
The two turtle doves were the Old and the New Testaments.
The 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 represented the first five books of the Old Testament, which describes the man’s fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Saviour.
The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation
Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit- Prophesy, 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…Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience (Forbearance), Goodness (Kindness), Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continency (Chastity).
The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful Apostles.
The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles Creed.
This is an original source came from Fr. Calvin Goodwin, FSSP, Nebraska.
So, now you know the meaning of this favorite song, you can relate yourself to its meaning. And to all: Blessed Merry Christmas and a bountiful 2017!
Celebrate the season with giving and sharing.