A popular religion is deep seeded in the hidden meaning of the holiday song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Did I say a secret meaning? Yes, that is correct! From 1558 to 1829, the Roman Catholics in England could not practice their faith in public because it was a crime. As fate has it, an unknown person, prior to 1780, wrote the popular carol as a catechism song for young children to sing at Christmas. It was encoded to avoid any outsiders from detecting it was written by a Catholic member. As I did some detective work on the ‘hidden meaning,’ I found a few articles which disputed this fact. But Catholic commentaries stand by their story.
Let’s enjoy “The Twelve Days of Christmas” sung by Mitch Miller!
Before I begin breaking down the Catholic’s hidden meaning of this Christmas song, let me pose a question. Just when are the twelve days of Christmas? Is it before Christmas, during Christmas, or after Christmas? What day does it begin? I’ve heard this song since I was a young child but I never thought to ask until now. We will come back to the answer.
Let’s breakdown the song’s hidden meaning….
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me”
Who is the true love? It is Jesus Christ! Love for mankind started on His birth.
“A partridge in a pear tree”
The partridge is willing to sacrifice it’s life to protect its own, therefore this represents Jesus.
“On the second day of Christmas my true gave to me – two turtle doves”
The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
“On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me – three French hens”
A representation of faith, hope, and love
“On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – four calling birds”
The four calling birds are the gospels of the New Testament known as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
“On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – five golden rings”
The five rings are the first five books of the Bible called the Book of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
These passages are important for they describe man’s fall into sin and God’s great love in sending His son to save us.
“On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – six geese-a-laying”
This represents the six days of God’s creation of the earth.
“On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me – seven swans a-swimming”
The sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit to build up the church – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11, and 1 Peter 4:11
“On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – eight maids a-milking”
This is the eight beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10 which describes Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – nine ladies dancing”
The nine fruits of the Holy Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23
Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
“On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – ten lords a-leaping”
A representation of the Ten Commandments
“On the eleventh day of Christmas my true gave to me – eleven pipers piping”
This is the eleven faithful Apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James bar Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas bar James.
“On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – twelve drummers drumming”
The twelve points of belief in the Apostle’s Creed:
Belief in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth
Jesus Christ, God’s only Son
Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary
Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried
He descended into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit (Father, Son, and God the Holy Spirit)
I believe in the holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body
Before I conclude this blog, let me reveal the actual timeframe of the twelve days of Christmas. This joyous season is considered sundown on December 24th (Christmas Eve) to sunset on January 5th (the eve of Epiphany). There are many renditions of this glorious song, but for me, the original carol will forever deepen the meaning of Christmas. Let us celebrate Jesus’s birth!
Please join us again for the next Everything Christmas Blog on Tuesday, December 18th!
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