What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans and especially the partridge who won’t come out of a pear tree have to do with the Twelve Days of Christmas?
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this Carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.
The song has two levels of meaning:
The Partridge in a Pear Tree was Jesus Christ.
Two Turtle Doves were the Old and New Testaments.
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, the first five books of the Old Testament.
The Six Geese A-Laying stood for the six days of Creation.
Seven Swans A-Swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit – Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy.
The 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.
The Ten Lords A-Leaping were the Ten Commandments.
The Eleven Pipers Piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
The Twelve Drummers Drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
The Twelve Days of Christmas are not the twelve days before Christmas. In most Western Christian Churches, they are the twelve days beginning December 25th until the beginning of Epiphany. In some traditions, they begin Christmas evening with December 26th being the First Day.
It has been my experience to celebrate Christmas on three continents and three islands during my lifetime – many years in cold and snow of North America and Europe, some years in 90 degree temperatures in the tropics. In every location, regardless of the surrounding circumstances, the sense of peace, joy and love was present. Let’s carry these emotions through the holiday season and into the New Year for a better 2013 both personally and generally.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.