People love music. The melody alone can change the way you feel, the lyrics can have an emotional tie that lasts our entire lifetime and depending on the season of the year, the setting that the song pertains to can transport us back into time.
One such song is the Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Initially published in 1780, the lyrics are thought to have been a poem recited even further back in England’s history. The song reflects the twelve days starting on December 25 up to January 6; the Epiphany
In 1982, Fr. Hal Stockert, a priest from Granville, N.Y., wrote an article (published online in 1995), claiming that the song had originally been used to teach children the true meaning of Christmas at a time when practicing Catholicism was illegal in Britain (1558-1829). Hugh D. McKellar, a Canadian musicologist, published a similar thesis, “How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas,” in 1994.
According to Stockert, the twelve days of the song had the following hidden meanings:
- 1 partridge in a pear tree: Jesus Christ, the Son of God
- 2 turtledoves: the Old and New Testaments
- 3 French hens: the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity
- 4 collie birds: the four gospels and/or the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
- 5 golden rings: the first five books of the Old Testament; the Torah
- 6 geese a-laying: the six days of creation
- 7 swans a-swimming: the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and/or the seven sacraments
- 8 maids a-milking: the Eight Beatitudes
- 9 ladies dancing: the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
- 10 lords a-leaping: the 10 Commandments
- 11 pipers piping: the 11 faithful disciples (minus Judas, who betrayed Christ)
- 12 drummers drumming: the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed
Of course, no one currently living can know for sure if this is the true basis of this timeless treasure but given the persecution people suffered for outwardly practicing their faith at the time of its creation, it seems to be a plausible assumption. So next time you sing this beautiful song, consider the possible significance these lines had to the families of long ago. Unlike they, we are blessed to be able to profess our beliefs openly without fear of prosecution.
Anthony “Tony” Boquet, the author of “The Bloodline of Wisdom, The Awakening of a Modern Solutionary”
If this is my last post, I want all to know there was only one purpose for all that I have written; to have made a positive difference in the lives of others.