The Twelve Days of Christmas - A History of the Carol

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a song that was written during the Puritan Movement in England. During the years 1558-1829 Catholics were not allowed to practice their faith. The song actually has two meanings. The first is the literal meaning of each verse of the song and the second is the subtle translation that was known to those of the Catholic faith. In the explanation below I will illustrate the Catholic meaning behind the actual text of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

What exactly are the Twelve Days of Christmas?

The Twelve Days of Christmas actually start on Christmas Day, December 25th. The twelfth day ends at midnight on January 5th of each year. The Holy Day of the Epiphany is followed on January 6. All Christmas decorations should be left up until the Epiphany.

  1. The first day of Christmas - My True Love, the Partridge in a Pear Tree (Jesus Christ is my true love). In ancient times a partridge was often used as symbol of a divine and sacred king.
  2. The second day of Christmas - Two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The doves symbolize peace.
  3. The third day of Christmas - The three French Hens are Faith, Hope and Love. These are the three gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  4. The fourth day of Christmas - The four calling birds are the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
  5. The fifth day of Christmas - The five golden rings describe the first five books of the Old Testament.
  6. The sixth day of Christmas - The six geese a laying stood for the first six days of creation.
  7. The seventh day of Christmas - The seven swans a swimming represented the the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy.
  8. The eighth day of Christmas - The eight maids a milking are the eight Beatitudes. These are Jesus' teachings of happiness.
  9. The ninth day of Christmas - Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. These are Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty and Continency.
  10. The tenth day of Christmas - The ten lords a leaping are the Ten Commandments.
  11. The eleventh day of Christmas - The eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful apostles.
  12. The twelfth day of Christmas - The twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve points of belief in The Apostles' Creed.