The Twelve Days of Christmas


       One English Christmas carol well-known worldwide today is, however, more than a repetitious tune with pretty phrases and strange gifts The Twelve Days of Christmas is a song with different levels of meaning.

       From 1558 to 1829, the Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. During this period, The Twelve Days of Christmas was written in England as a catechism song for young Catholics. The hidden meanings of the song's gifts were intended to help the children remember lessons of their faith. Instead of referring to an earthly suiter, the "true love" mentioned in the song refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents is symbolic of every baptized person. The "partridge in a pear tree" is Jesus Christ. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings. The meaning of the other symbols are:

       Two turtle doves --- The Old and New Testaments;

       Three French hens --- Faith, Hope and Charity;

       Four calling birds --- The Four Gospels;

       Five golden rings --- The first five books of the Old Testament;

       Six geese a-laying --- The six days of creation;

       Seven swans a-swimming --- Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit;

       Eight maids a-milking --- The eight Beatitudes;

       Nine ladies dancing --- Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit;

       Ten lords a-leaping --- The Ten Commandments;

       Eleven pipers piping --- The eleven faithful disciples;

       Twelve drummers drumming --- The twelve points of belief in the                                                    Apostles' Creed.


(Reprinted from Newsletter of the Catholic Medical Mission Board, December 1988)


The Twelve Days of Christmas


On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

A Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Five Golden Rings

Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Six Geese a Laying

Five Golden Rings

Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Seven Swans a Swimming

Six Geese a Laying

Five Golden Rings

Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Eight Maids a Milking

Seven Swans a Swimming

Six Geese a Laying

Five Golden Rings

Four Calling 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 Ladies Dancing

Eight Maids a Milking

Seven Swans a Swimming

Six Geese a Laying

Five Golden Rings

Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Ten Lords a Leaping

Nine Ladies Dancing

Eight Maids a Milking

Seven Swans a Swimming

Six Geese a Laying

Five Golden Rings

Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Eleven Pipers Piping

Ten Lords a Leaping

Nine Ladies Dancing

Eight Maids a Milking

Seven Swans a Swimming

Six Geese a Laying

Five Golden Rings

Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Eleven Pipers Piping

Ten Lords a Leaping

Nine Ladies Dancing

Eight Maids a Milking

Seven Swans a Swimming

Six Geese a Laying

Five Golden Rings

Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens

Two Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree