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Merry Christmas! 12 Days of Christmas Legend

The Legend of the Twelve Days of Christmas Song

The twelve days of Christmas are the twelve days between Christmas Day, Dec. 25th, the birth of Jesus, and the Epiphany, Jan. 6th, the day Christians celebrate the arrival of the Magi (Wise Men) and the revelation of Christ as the light of the world.

The Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” has a legend behind it and the legend is the song was a kind of secret catechism for children that could be sung in public in England from the 1500’s to the mid 1800’s without fear of arrest. During that time, Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly.

1. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus.  The “true love” in the song refers to God Himself.  The “me” receiving the gifts is every Christian. Here’s a passage that is analogous to the partridge:  Luke 13:34:  “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so.”

2. The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.

What do the 3 French hens stand for?

3. Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.

4. The four calling birds are the four Gospels.

What about the five golden rings?


5. The five gold rings recall the Hebrew Torah (Law), the first five books of the Old Testament.

6. The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.

7. The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit including one of my favorites, wisdom.

And the 8 maids a milking?

8. The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes. One of my favorites:  Blessed are the peacemakers,  for they shall be called children of God.

9. Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness,

10. The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.

11. Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful Apostles.

The 12 drummers drumming symbolizes the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed.

If  we live by these, we’ll be good Christians.


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