What are the Twelve Days of Christmas?
The twelve days of Christmas, or Christmastide, begin at sunset on Christmas Eve and end on the Eve of The Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, on January 5th.
What about the Christmas Carol of the same name?
As the legend goes, religious wars in sixteenth century England made it dangerous to be a Catholic. Many people practiced their faith in secret. Catholic families developed unique ways to secretly pass the faith onto their children, like “The 12 Days of Christmas.” The well-known song was used to teach children about the Church.
The First Day of Christmas: A Partridge in a Pear Tree
A partridge in a pear tree symbolizes Jesus Christ, with the partridge representing Christ’s willingness to sacrifice himself and the pear tree symbolizing the cross.
The Second Day of Christmas: Two Turtle Doves
Two turtle doves represents the first and second testaments of the Bible.
The Third Day of Christmas: Three French Hens
Three French hens are the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Charity that define this day
The Fourth Day of Christmas: Four Calling Birds
The original song lyrics were “four colly birds.” Colly meant black.
So, it could be thought of as four blackbirds or ravens. When a raven
caws, you hear it, just as the Gospel calls out for each of us to hear it.
The Fifth Day of Christmas: Five Gold Rings
The five golden rings are the most valuable of gifts in the original
song. This is also where the song lyrics take a dramatic pause. On a
religious level, the rings represent the first five books of the Old
Testament, or the Pentateuch. These books are the history and law
given by God to Moses.
The Sixth Day of Christmas: Six Geese A-Laying
The geese laying represents creating a new life as God created all
The Seventh Day of Christmas: Seven Swans A-Swimming
Swans are graceful water creatures. The number seven represents the
seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are wisdom, understanding,
counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
The Eighth Day of Christmas: Eight Maids A-Milking
A milking cow is working. But the rewards of this work are sweet. Look to the beatitudes here as this is how God wants us to treat
The Ninth Day of Christmas: Nine Ladies Dancing
Nine ladies dancing represent the nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When your life displays the fruits of the spirit, you become a wonderful expression of action and grace to others.
The Tenth Day of Christmas: Ten Lords A-Leaping
These Lords refer to the English Parliament’s House of Lords. They
were lawmakers so this loosely symbolizes the Ten Commandments.
As for why the Lords are leaping, one interpretation suggests that
maybe a higher law given by God could make them leap?!
The Ten Commandments
- I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have none other gods but me.
- Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
- Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all that thou hast to do; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.
- Honour thy father and thy mother.
- Thou shalt do no murder.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness.
- Thou shalt not covet.
The Eleventh Day of Christmas: January 04
Eleven Pipers Piping
Pipers were known for music that relaxed people. They also led
people in marches during the Middle Ages. These 11 pipers represent
the apostles of Jesus (minus Judas) who led the way for Jesus’
teaching around the world.
The Twelfth Day of Christmas: January 05
Twelve Drummers Drumming
Drummers keep people in line and stepping in unison, all with the
same rhythm. The Apostles’ Creed acts as a rhythmic reminder of
beliefs. With 12 main points in the creed, it is a powerful statement of
The Apostles’ Creed
- I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
- And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;
- Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary:
- Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell.
- The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
- From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Ghost,
- The holy Catholic Church;
- the Communion of Saints,
- the Forgiveness of sins,
- the Resurrection of the body,
- and the Life everlasting. Amen.