The Twelve Days of Christmas

Source: more

Loved or hated,  the carol, The 12 Days of Christmas, has been around in one version or another since the late 1700s. The 12 days of Christmas is the period during which Christians  mark the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes also called Three Kings’ Day).

Some scholars believe the carol was part of a memory game played during the Christmas season. Others hold that it is a list of Catholic teachings hidden in the carol to thwart those who were persecuting Catholics.

In today’s post, igNation presents part of an article which debunks the Catholic theory.  – “The 12 Days of Christmas: the story behind the holiday’s most annoying carol.” ( by Tanya Pal)

 ” A popular theory that’s made the internet rounds is that the lyrics to “The 12 Days of Christmas” are coded references to Christianity; it posits that the song was written to help Christians learn and pass on the tenets of their faith while avoiding persecution. Under that theory, the various gifts break down as follows, as the myth-debunking website Snopes explained:

2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments

3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

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 gives the history of man’s fall from grace.

6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation

7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments

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

The partridge in the pear tree, naturally, represents Jesus Christ.

This theory seems tailor-made for circulation via chain emails, but it actually makes little sense once you examine it. Snopes has a great explanation of the many, many holes in its logic.

The most egregious: First, the song’s gifts have nothing to do with their Christian “equivalents,” so the song is basically useless as a way to remember key pillars of the faith.

And second, if Christians were so restricted from practicing their faith that they had to conceal messages in a song, they also wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas in the first place — much less sing Christmas carols.

“The late historian William Studwell, known for his Christmas carol expertise, also refuted the coded message idea. Via a Northern Illinois University news release:

First, Catholics of that era were not terribly persecuted, so there would have been little need for their teachings to have been secretive. Also, the breezy, bouncy nature of the tune hardly fits with the character of the church at that time. Finally, neither Studwell, nor any other reputable researcher, has ever found a definitive explanation of what each of the 12 gifts in the song would have correlated to in the Catholic catechism.

  • Maria Ilustre
    Posted at 04:35h, 26 December Reply


  • Rochelle Barnum
    Posted at 09:46h, 26 December Reply

    I thought you might enjoy this take on the 12 Days!

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 10:15h, 26 December Reply

    Thank you John! Merry Christmas!

  • Esther Buckley
    Posted at 15:27h, 28 December Reply

    Good luck and God bless you during your sabbatical leave.
    Sincerely — Esther Buckleyes

  • graeme quinlan
    Posted at 05:50h, 04 January Reply

    Sure it does make you want to stop and think about the whole concept of the celebration of Christmas. Is,nt it really about our total trust and Faith in the Birth of, and presence of the Christ into our world. It is Jesus among us that gives us our hope. This is the greatest gift that mankind has ever received and will ever receive. So let us rejoice in His presence among us.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 12:36h, 04 January Reply

    Thank you John!

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