Cynthia Montello Ministries

The Myth Behind The Song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’

The Myth Behind The Song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’

The 12 days of Christmas is the period that marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, or the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany).

Christmas Day is the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The period is viewed by Christians as the amount of time it took the three wise men to travel to Bethlehem for the Epiphany, the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Savior and the Son of God. (“epiphany” is from the Greek word for “revelation”). The three wise men came to acknowledge the birth of the Savior and brought gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh to present to him.

In America, because our attention span is about five minutes, we really don’t celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. For most people, once Christmas Day is over, the tree comes down, the decorations are put away and we are on to the New Year celebration and Christmas becomes an afterthought until next year.

There is a song, we’ve all heard it, called The Twelve Days of Christmas. Most of us really can’t wait for the song to end. It’s kind of long and monotonous. But folklore has it, (this has not been verified through history, but it’s a fun myth) that the song actually has a secret meaning.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. The Church of England or Protestants, was established and it became forbidden to practice Catholicism. Many were murdered for their beliefs. Someone wrote this carol in 1780 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 the Church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality, which the children could remember.

The lyrics start like this:

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two turtle doves and

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

So you know how it goes, but let’s look at the hidden meaning behind the song.

The “True Love” mentioned in the song is not a romantic love, but God, because He gave His Son and true Love was born on Christmas Day.

The partridge in the pear tree represents Jesus because a partridge is willing to sacrifice its life if necessary to protect its young by acting as though it’s injured to draw away predators.

The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments

The three French hens stood for faith, hope, and love.

The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The five golden rings represented the first five books of the Old Testament, which describe man’s fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Savior.

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, Encouragement, Giving, 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, Goodness, Kindness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control.

The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful Apostles.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles’ Creed.

This is all just for fun. Remember it’s folklore, but interesting and fun for Christmas.