In Reply to: The Twelve Days of Christmas posted by Andrea on December 19, 2008 at 11:13:
: I just received this email and was wondering if it is at all true, if not, what is the origin of the song?
: The Christmas Carol that 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 ?
: 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 two 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.
No: this is a silly story without a shred of truth in it. I suggest you reply to the person who sent you the email by sending him/her this link, which comprehensively demolishes it: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp.
You can add to Babara Mikkelson's debunking that there are many different versions of this song. In a Scottish version the gifts are: a peacock, three partridges, three plovers, a goose that was grey, three starlings, three goldspinks, a bull that was brown, three ducks a-merry swimming, an Arabian baboon, three hinds a-merry hunting, three maids a-merry dancing, three stalks o'merry corn. In the west of France they are: a good stuffing without bones, two breasts of veal, three joints of beef, four pigs' trotters, five legs of mutton, six partridges with cabbage, seven spitted rabbits with sauce, eight plates of salad, nine dishes for a chapter of canons, ten full casks, eleven beautiful full-breasted maidens, and twelve musketeers with their swords. Ask your e-correspondent if s/he can make a lesson in Catholic theology out of those! (VSD)