Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas is the time between Christmas Day and Old Christmas, or the Feast of the Epiphany. All of us have heard the silly carol written about it, and if you are like me, it seems to never end.  I'm usually ready to move on at five golden rings. Last week, I heard a storyteller tell what the song is about, and I don't think it is so silly now. I don't know how much of this is truth, but it is entirely possible. It is a lovely tradition.

In the sixteenth century, Henry VIII got mad at the Pope because the Pope informed him that he had to go by the rules, even if he was king.  Henry VIII declared himself the head of the church of England, and publicly beheaded Sir Thomas More when he wouldn't bow down to him.  It was a crime to be a Catholic, so this song was written to teach  children about their beliefs without danger of persecution.

 Here is the meaning the storyteller assigned to each of the verses.

My True Love refers to God.
Twelve Lords a leaping are the twelve basic beliefs in the Apostles Creed.
Eleven pipers piping are the eleven Apostles (after the betrayal of Judas).
Ten ladies dancing are the Ten Commandments.
Nine drummers drumming represented nine choirs of angels
Eight maids a milking are for the beatitudes. At this time, milk maids were the lowest on the social scale, and it is thought this represented humility as taught in the beatitudes.
Seven swans a swimming are the Seven Sacraments.
Six geese a laying are the six days of creation or the Six commandments of the Church.
Five golden rings are for the Torah, the first five books in the Old Testament.
Four calling birds are the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Three French hens are the three persons of the Trinity or the three wise men.
Two turtledoves represents the two natures in Jesus: human and divine, or the two books of the Bible.
The partridge is, of course, Jesus.  The pear tree is the Cross.

If you are offended because Jesus is compared to a bird, check out
Luke 13:34.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!