The Twelve Days of Christmas , also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus. In most Western ecclesiastical traditions, Christmas Day is considered the First Day of Christmas. The Twelve Days are 25 December – 5 January, inclusive.
The Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" abounds in speculation as to its origins. One theory connects the carol to the era when Catholicism was outlawed in England from 1558 and 1829. The carol, it is said, was a catechism song for Catholics to learn "the tenets of their faith" as they could not openly practice in Anglican society . While many still hold the idea of a coded hymn to be true, there's no substantive evidence that this was the case, nor is there any evidence that the verses contain anything uniquely Catholic.
Here are the verses of the song along with their supposed symbolism.
A Partridge in a Pear Tree - Jesus Christ
Two Turtle Doves - The Old and New Testaments
Three French Hens - The three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
Four Calling/Collie Birds - Four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Five Golden Rings - First five books of the Old Testament
Six Geese-a-Laying - Six days of creation before God's rest on the seventh day
Seven Swans-a-Swimming - Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight Maids-a-Milking - Eight Beatitudes
Nine Ladies Dancing - Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten Lords-a-Leaping - Ten Commandments
Eleven Pipers Piping - Eleven faithful disciples
Twelve Drummers Drumming - Twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed
While these verses are what most of us associate with the "Twelve Days of Christmas," the phrase refers to an actual 12-day period. The 12 days of Christmas in fact are the days from December 25, celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ, to the Epiphany, celebrated on January 6 as the day when the manifestation of Christ's glory was realized.
Every year at this exact time of year I go through an epiphany of my own, a moment of great revelation or realization. Though I won't pretend to be animated by the ecclesiastical element of the festival, I am always anxious to prolong the the pleasure of the musical accompaniment, in particular just about anything by George Frideric Handel, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mantovani.
The conjunction of this spiritual celebration and the sentiment which inevitably surrounds it (captured for example in such tear-jerkers as, "I'll be home for Christmas" recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby written to honour soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmas time) inspires a multitude of favourable thoughts and inclinations. Add a bit of grog and a blazing fireplace and you're assured a passionate absorption! I will however confess as readily to an equal evaporation of the tenderness, sadness and nostalgia by the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas. My commemoration is then complete!
There was therefore a corresponding resurrection of the secular preoccupations today, a series of sharp correspondence with our Canadian banker; a topical review of the decline of the popularity of opera; and - naturally - a significant commission at the grocery store to replenish the exhausted holiday provisions. And to ensure a total readjustment to the profane I repeated my matutinal bicycle ride and elongation by the pool this afternoon. I have contemporaneously sought to diminish - at least intellectually - my native anxiety about the commercial delays wrought by the holiday season. The truth is that they are petty matters spurred by my burgeoning curmudgeonly temper. Nonetheless I require the performance of a manifestation even of these trifling matters to render onto myself a tolerable level of purity and perfection (though I beg your pardon for the vulgar slur thereby impugned).
It is perhaps no small coincidence that the capitulation to domestic necessity as a source of elevation was not unknown to my late agèd mother, by whom I willing acknowledge having been profoundly influenced. Though it resounds as filial indiscretion to say so - if not indeed something approaching sacrilege - the frozen truth is that I was never hugely enamoured by either of my parents. As fowl as this admission appears, it is meant not as a slight but merely an acute observation. It was only in the last several years of my parents' lives that we did anything approaching "getting to know one another" - and that with considerable and everlasting reservation. We never for example had a profound discussion about anything particularly material to any one of us. As a result I was left to adjudge their personality based solely upon what I otherwise heard and saw, admittedly for me not always an inspiring scrutiny. They apparently harboured the same limitation about my conduct. This is by no means an unfortunate state of affairs as I have no doubt we all appreciated one another to the degree that it mattered (although without the unrestrained idolatry which some people feel is requisite in the familial close).
It is the privilege of survival that one is at liberty to carry on without the burden of obligation to one's parents. It is nature's way of setting people adrift to make their own way at last. I delight in saying that I haven't been chained to any remaining consternation, nor sense of failure or short-comings. I am now able to look across the sea at the distant horizon with nothing but thankfulness and hope, mindful naturally of my own impending quittance. The bottom line - as my mother was wont to say - "What's not to like!"