The 12 Days of Christmas

By Donna Wahlstrom

In the 16th century an unknown author wrote a song that has since become an the all-time Christmas carol favorite, “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Even though the song’s author has not been revealed there is speculation that the song was written by Jesuits.

During that time, Catholics were prohibited from practicing their faith, so they went underground. The punishment if you were caught was imprisonment, hanging, or worse. Because it was a crime to be a Catholic, it was difficult to educate the youth to their faith so they began penning children’s lessons about the faith in song and code.

To those of the “other faith”, the Protestants, the song was just a pretty melody and nonsensical words. But to the Catholic children it was to help them learn the tenets of their faith, it served as a memory aid.

“The 12 Days of Christmas” celebrates the Nativity and begins 12 days before Epiphany.

According to the Catholics, the symbols in the song mean:

True love God
Me is each Catholic
2 turtle doves the old and new testaments
3 french hens faith, hope and charity
4 calling birds the four gospels
5 golden rings the first five books of the old testament
6 geese a laying the six days of creation
7 swans a swimming seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
8 maids a milking the eight beatitudes
9 ladies dancing the nine fruits of the holy spirit
10 lords a leaping the ten commandments
11 pipers piping the eleven faithful apostles
12 drummers drumming the twelve points of doctrine in the apostle’s creed.

And we just thought it was a really long song to sing.

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