The 12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas

From the middle of the 16th century through the early 19th century, Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to openly practice their faith. As a result, the familiar Christmas carol, the 12 Days of Christmas, was written as a teaching tool, that contained a ‘hidden’ message that only the members of the Church would understand. Each element in the carol is a code word for some teaching of the Church. Because the words were put to music it was an easy way for children to remember the tenets of their faith.

  • The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah;
  • The two turtle doves represent the Old and New Testaments;
  • The three French hens stood for the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and love;
  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John;
  • The five golden rings recall the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament which represent the Law;
  • The six geese a-laying represent the six days of creation;
  • The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord;
  • The eight maids a-milking stand for the eight beatitudes;
  • The nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control;
  • The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments;
  • The eleven pipers stand for the eleven faithful disciples;
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of belief in the Apostles Creed.