Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


The Twelve Days of Christmas

There are a lot of rumors about "The Twelve Days of Christmas", an old French song that first showed in English written form in the children's book "Mirth Without Mischief" in A.D. 1780. One rumor is that it was a catechism in code, used by Catholics to pass the Faith down to their children during the Cromwell-led persecutions in England and Ireland. The supposed symbolism goes like this:

Partridge in a Pear Tree the 1 Christ
2 Turtle Doves the 2 Testaments, Old and New
3 French Hens the 3 Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity
4 Colly Birds the 4 Gospels and the 4 Evangelists
5 Golden Rings the first 5 Books of the Old Testament (Torah)
6 Geese A-laying the 6 days of Creation
7 Swans A-swimming the 7 Sacraments, the 7 Gifts of the Holy Ghost
8 Maids A-milking the 8 Beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping the 10 Commandments
11 Pipers Piping the 11 faithful Apostles
12 Drummers Drumming the 12 points of doctrine in the Creed

 
This isn't accurate, though, and is a conflation of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with another catechism song that gave religious symbolism to the 12 days of Christmas -- but wasn't in a "secret code" at all (in other words, an honest mistake).

Other mistakes have crept in over the years. For ex., instead of saying "colly birds," which means blackbirds (colly means "coal dust"), most people say "calling birds." The "5 gold rings" (not "golden") refer not to 5 rings made of gold, but to 5 ring-necked pheasants! As you can see, the first 7 gifts all turn out to be some sort of bird.

At any rate, this song is a Twelfthnight song sung by children as a "memory and forfeits" game. Whoever first forgets a line is out. Here is a midi file to hear the melody, and below are the lyrics:

The 12 Days of Christmas

The first day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree

The second day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree.

The third day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree.

The fourth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Four colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree.

The fifth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Five gold rings,
Four colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree

The sixth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree

The seventh day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree

The eighth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four colly 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 drummers drumming,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree.

The tenth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Ten pipers piping,
Nine drummers drumming,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree.

The eleventh day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Eleven ladies dancing,
Ten pipers piping,
Nine drummers drumming,
Eight maids a-milking
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree.

The twelfth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Twelve lords a-leaping,
Eleven ladies dancing,
Ten pipers piping,
Nine drummers drumming,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree.

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