Many have asked me about the famous Christmas song, The 12 Days of Christmas. Although the song’s origins are unknown, as children sang it long before it was published, it is generally regarded as a pneumonic song to teach the faith or at least remind the singer of particular Christian concepts through this Season of Christmas. Many detractors critique the song saying that there is no historical evidence for this explanation. This is true. There is no evidence to suggest that it isn’t true either. Many Christian scholars believe the "true love" mentioned in the song does not refer to an earthly lover--it refers to God. The "me" who receives the gift refers to the Christian. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge who fakes injury to lure predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "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..." (KJV Luke 13:34)
The other symbols are explained as follows:
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity- the Theological Virtues
(I Corinthians 13:13)
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which relays the history of humanity’s fall.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of Creation (Genesis 1)
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes (Mathew 5:3-10)
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22)
10 Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 1-17)
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles (Luke 6:14-16)
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
Remember Christmas is not just a day; it’s a season!
(December 25 – January 5)