Merry (12 Days) of Christmas!

 

The carol Twelve Days of Christmas has always been sung throughout Christmas after Christmas as it has become a classic song to usher in the festive season. However, I have always been baffled and bemused over the lyrics in this Christmas carol which goes 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

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings

Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying

Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking

Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing

Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping

Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 Drummers Drumming
Eleven Pipers Piping

Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree”

What exactly do leaping lords, french hens,swimming swans and especially the partridge in the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

It seems that from 1558 to 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practise their faith openly. The carol was written during this era as a catechism song for young Catholics. Surprisingly, the carol has the surface meaning and the hidden meaning which is only known to members of the Church. Each element of the carol has a religious reality which the children could remember easily.

  • The partridge in the pear tree is Jesus Christ.
  • The two turtle doves are the Old and the 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 recalled the Torah or Law which is the first five books (Genesis, Exodus,Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy) of the old testament.
  • The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  • The seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit which is prophesy, service, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership and mercy.
  • The eight maids a-milking represented the eight beatitudes                               (Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
    Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
    Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice:                                           for they shall have their fill.
    Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
    Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
    Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake,                                   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven).
  • The nine ladies dancing stood for the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit                 (love, joy, peace,patience,kindness, goodness, faithfulness,                                gentleness and self-control).
  • The ten lords a leaping were the Ten Commandments
    1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
    2. You shall not make idols.
    3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
    4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
    5. Honor your father and your mother.
    6. You shall not murder.
    7. You shall not commit adultery.
    8. You shall not steal.
    9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    10. You shall not covet.
  • The eleven pipers stood for the eleven faithful disciples of Jesus.
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

This put a smile on my face that Jesus can be found in so many areas of our lives, whether in front of us or hidden us, waiting for us to chance upon him. Therefore, let us remember the significance of the timeless Christmas carols that we sing during this festive season and in remembering the birth of Jesus, we may then bring baby Jesus to our loved ones and also those we meet along the way. Alleluia! Alleluia! God is with us!

God Bless! and may the light of Jesus touch this darkened world during Christmas that good would always triumph over evil.

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

 

 

 

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