What do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and a partridge in a pear tree have to do with Christmas? From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. This carol was written as a catechism lesson with two levels of meaning. There is the surface meaning which in musical form is easy to memorize. And there is a hidden meaning known only to members of the church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality that's easy for children to remember.
"The Twelve Days of Christmas"
The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
Two turtledoves were the Old and New Testaments .
Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
Four calling birds were the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
Five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
Six geese a laying stood for the six days of creation.
Seven swans a swimming represented the seven fold gifts of the Holy Spirit Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
Eight maids a milking were the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
Ten lords a leaping were the Ten Commandments.
Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
Twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles' Creed.
On this day before one of the most sacred holidays in the Christian world, may I make this wish for everyone on behalf of all of us at Bane-Clene.
May you have a happy and blessed Christmas.
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