The song “Twelve Days of Christmas” is a good deal more than just a repetitious melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange gifts. Catholics in England, during the period 1558 to 1829, were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law--private OR public. It was a crime to be a Catholic during this time. Roman Catholics could not purchase land, hold civil or military offices or seats in Parliament, inherit property, or practice their religion freely without incurring severe civil penalties and even death. “The Twelve Day of Christmas” was written in England as one of the “catechism songs” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith. The “true love” mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor; it refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The other symbols mean the following: Two (2) Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments. Three (3) French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues. Four (4) Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists. Five (5) Golden Rings = The First Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”, which gives the history of man’s fall from grace. Six (6) Geese A-laying = the six days of creation. Seven (7) Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments. Eight (8) Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes. Nine (9) Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Ten (10) Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments. Eleven (11) Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles. Twelve (12) Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed. The next time you hear this classic Christmas hymn, you can use it as an opportunity to teach others about the truths of the Catholic Faith.
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