Saturday, December 12, 2009

The 12 Days of Christmas

You hear it every Christmas, from a variety of artists, even the Muppets! But here's something I heard/read for the first time...

There is one Christmas carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

This week, I found out.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has twol levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
  • Three French hens stood for faith, hope, and love.
  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  • The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
  • The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  • Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts 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 - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
 Interesting... I guess that answers some questions. Any thoughts?

By the way, the image above is actually a coloring page that you can download here. If you have little ones, I'd head over here instead. There's more to print, craft, and interact with.


junia said...

actually i think that's more of an urban myth... like u know the "true story of the candy cane" where they take a fun holiday concept and turn it more christmassy. :-)

dan tsai said...

I said "I will" to Mr. Woo! said...

@Dan - Gotta love Google...

Pretty crafty though, no? I thought it was very creative to go through the trouble, whether true or false.