January 2, 2012

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Between the years 1558‑1829, English Catholics were  not permitted to practice  their faith openly.  Without regular Mass, sacraments, or catechism lessons from the priest, parents sought  help to assist their children in learning and remembering their Faith.  This song was created to keep the Catholic faith alive, though hidden for the time.  The 12 days are from the feast of Christmas, December 25th, to the feast of Epiphany, January 6th.

Instead of referring to a suitor, the “true love” refers  to God Himself.  The “me” who receives the presents symbolizes every baptized  person.  The “partridge in a pear tree” is Jesus Christ.  A mother partridge will feign injury to decoy predators from her helpless  nestlings.  The children hearing this song would have known that, and therefore would have understood the parallel between the acts of the mother bird and the sacrifice of Christ.

The other items continue the symbolism:

2 turtle doves                    the Old and New Testaments;
3 French hens                   Faith, Hope and Charity;
4 calling birds                    the Four Gospels;
5 golden rings                    the first five books of the Old Testament
6 geese a laying                 the days of creation;
7 swans a swimming          the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit;
8 maids a milking               the eight Beatitudes;
9 ladies dancing                 nine choirs of angels;
10 lords a leaping              the Ten Commandments;
11 pipers piping                 the eleven faithful Apostles;
12 drummers drumming     the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

Merry Christmas!

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