The 12 Days of Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas

The "Twelve Days of Christmas" is a traditional and lengthy English Christmas Carol. The song is based on the premise that the singer receives one gift per day from his or her "true love" over the 12 days immediately following Christmas Day.
Whether you love it or hate it, the "12 Days of Christmas" song is a holiday staple. Sure, you might prefer belting out other beloved Christmas carols like "Feliz Navidad" or Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You," but there's something about singing the  12 Days of Christmas each year that makes you feel a little nostalgic. Even if you don't know all the words, you're likely able to remember an occasional verse like "Nine ladies dancing!" or "A partridge in a pear tree!" But do you know the "12 Days of Christmas" song meaning and the hidden-message theory about the lyrics?
Not much of the song makes much sense in the modern age, but knowing the rich history behind the elaborate song (which ends up totaling 364 gifts, by the way) puts the seemingly odd lyrics in context. Let's dive in!
What are the 12 days of Christmas?
The 12 Days of Christmas referenced in the carol reference the 12 days following Christmas, also known as Twelvetide in Christianity. The period starts with the birth of Christ on December 25th and ends with the coming of the Three Wise Men on January 6th, also known as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day.
The four weeks preceding Christmas are collectively known ADVENT, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on December 24.
The 12 Days of Christmas - Christmas Carol Meaning and Origin
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English Christmas carol that lists a group of increasingly superb gifts given on each of the 12 days of Christmas (the 12 days that make up the Christmas season, starting with Christmas Day). The song, published in England in 1780 without music as a chant or rhyme, is thought to be French in origin. The melodies of collected versions of the carol vary throughout history. The standard tune now associated with it is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin, who introduced the familiar prolongation of the verse "five gold rings" (now usually called "five golden rings").
The lyrics to “The 12 Days of Christmas” have changed over the years
The version most people are familiar with today begins with this verse:
On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
a partridge in a pear tree.
The song then adds a gift for each day, building on the verse before it, until you’re reciting all 12 gifts together:
Day 2: two turtle doves
Day 3: three French hens
Day 4: four calling birds
Day 5: five gold rings
Day 6: six geese a-laying
Day 7: seven swans a-swimming
Day 8: eight maids a-milking
Day 9: nine ladies dancing
Day 10: 10 lords a-leaping
Day 11: 11 pipers piping
Day 12: 12 drummers drumming
The Twelve days of Christmas had quite a serious purpose when it was written. Each verse refers to a teaching of church doctrine — with the Partridge being Christ who died on a tree and the 'True Love' being God the Father, who gave us all the gifts.
What the symbols mean:

The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Love
4 Calling Birds = the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
5 Golden Rings = first five Books of Old Testament (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
So next time you hear the familiar words you will understand what they all mean.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Featured collection

View all
Extreme Sock Geek - 6 Month Gift Subscription
from £45.00 GBP
Extreme Sock Geek - 3 Month Gift Subscription
from £24.00 GBP
Statement Sock Geek - 6 Month Gift Subscription
from £45.00 GBP
Friendly Sock Geek - 12 Month Gift Subscription
from £84.00 GBP