Skip to comments.Origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas [An Underground Catechism]
Posted on 12/26/2004 5:44:28 PM PST by Salvation
The first day of Christmas was yesterday when God gave us the "Partidge in a Pear Tree" -- Jesus Christ.
The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself.
For Catholics and Christians Christmas starts on Christmas Day and lasts through the feast of the Epiphany, when the Magi brought gifts to the Christ Child.
So Catholics and many Christians put up their Christmas trees on Christmas eve and while the unbelievers take down their trees, these people leave theirs up through January 6th.
And I am supposed to believe that rather than Catholic tradition?
You must have a thing about this. Why don't you believe ein the Twelve Days of Christmas?
Why don't you believe in the Twelve Days of Christmas?
"Catholic tradition"? NO proof just hearsay. Historical tracing proves otherwise.
History of the Catholic opression in England??? Sources, please??
This may be a part of history that many would like to forget, but it is still there and it DID happen.
Nice story, but evidently not true.
So are you denying that this song was used in England when Catholics were opressed?
I know it was a really long and involved post, so let me try to break it down.
I think what I'm trying to say is --
Without honesty, nothing else matters..
I despise fictional cutsie tearjerker stories too.
The Twelve Days of Christmas are probably the most misunderstood part of the church year among Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions. Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th).
The origin of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures (see Christmas). In the Western church, Epiphany is traditionally celebrated as the time the three Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings (Span: la Fiesta de Reyes, el Dia de los Tres Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos; Dutch: Driekoningendag). Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Since Eastern Orthodox traditions use a different religious calendar, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th.
By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days of Christmas with (sometimes pagan) festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with driving away evil spirits for the start of the new year.
The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th), and often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. French and English celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King's Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some cultures, the King's Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany.
The popular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is usually seen as simply a nonsense song for children. However, some have suggested that it is a song of Christian instruction dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith. They contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the "days" represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.
However, many have questioned the historical accuracy of this origin of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. It seems that some have made an issue out of trying to debunk this as an "urban myth," some in the name of historical accuracy and some out of personal agendas. There is little "hard" evidence available either way. Some church historians affirm this account as basically accurate, while others point out apparent historical discrepancies. However, the "evidence" on both sides is mostly in logical deduction and probabilities. One internet site devoted to debunking hoaxes and legends says that, "there is no substantive evidence to demonstrate that the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was created or used as a secret means of preserving tenets of the Catholic faith, or that this claim is anything but a fanciful modern day speculation ..." What is omitted is that there is no "substantive evidence" that will disprove it either.
It is certainly possible that this view of the song is legendary or anecdotal. Without corroboration and in the absence of "substantive evidence," we probably should not take rigid positions on either side and turn the song into a crusade for personal opinions. That would do more to violate the spirit of Christmas than the song is worth. So, for the sake of historical accuracy, we need to acknowledge this uncertainty.
However, on another level, this uncertainty should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point. Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God's grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was a secular "nonsense song," they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world. After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?
On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34)
On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Five Gold Rings
The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity's sinful failure and God's response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.
On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eight Maids A-milking
The eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)
On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Ten Lords A-leaping
The ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God's name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)
On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eleven Pipers Piping
The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James. (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the Romans.
On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Twelve Drummers Drumming
The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.
Epiphany, January 6
Graphics for the Twelve Days of Christmas by The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Thanks to Yvonne Edwards for suggesting this page and finding the graphics.
-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2004, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved
At least they were honest in making that statement.
**we probably should not take rigid positions on either side and turn the song into a crusade for personal opinions. That would do more to violate the spirit of Christmas than the song is worth. So, for the sake of historical accuracy, we need to acknowledge this uncertainty.**
No but as The Twelve Days of Christmas points out
The key flaw in this theory is that the differences between the Anglican and Catholic churches were largely differences in emphasis and form which were extrinsic to scripture. Although Catholics and Anglicans used different English translations of the Bible (Douai-Reims and the King James version, respectively), all of the religious tenets supposedly preserved by the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (with the possible exception of the number of sacraments) were shared by Catholics and Anglicans alike:Despite what the nuns taught you, the practice of Chriatianity did not stop in England just because Pope Paul IV ordered English Catholics to commit treason or face excommunication
Conversely, none of the important differences that would obviously distinguish a Catholic from a Protestant is mentioned here
I wasn't aware that martians had a web site.
Without even a token attempt to refute it.
That doesn't prevent the neurotic from flogging the dead horse.
Faith is not always a wonderful thing.
That site has so many pop ups on it I won't even go there.
The song has nothing Marian in it (excessive reverence to Mary is counter to Protestant teaching) nor anything Petrine (or any papal reference: another sticking-point between catholicism and Protestantism) so, why bother with a 'hidden meaning'-type of song enumerating non-controversial points of doctrine?
Nice story, cute; but it's still just a SONG.
Yes, I realize it is JUST a song, however, I am more interested in getting people to realize that Christmas time is the time through Christmas Day until the Epiphany.
Hopefully you understand that and agree with it. It was always difficult to explain to my children why our tree stayed up longer than all their friends' trees.
I guess Christians and Catholics are just different than the non-believers that way.
Offer me some actual evidence that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was code for keeping Catholic tradition alive in the 16th & 17th Centuries and I may believe you. To cite an email that makes the rounds every year as proof is ludicrous.
I keep my tree up 'way past Orthodox Christmas - we've had Valentines Day trees and Easter trees: I flavor the water with MiracleGrow (about a quarter to a third of what they recommend for indoor plants) and the damned things just keep going on happily! Still have a nice scent, and I've gotten better than 2" of new growth on 'em some years before we finally get tired enough of 'em to toss 'em outside.
As long as they keep their needles well (Fraser firs and Balsams are preferred) I've no problems letting them grow.
I'm confushed; where did you get the impression that this was an email? I linked it to the Catholic Information Network. (also posted a link to the author's credentials)
Good idea about keep the trees green and growing. I never thought about putting Miracle Grow in the water, but it makes sense. Thanks for the hint.
The lyrics went: on the first day "of the SEASON" my true love gave to me.....insert gift item.
"Of the SEASON" was so offensive because of the replacement of the word Christmas. "Honestly, though," the thought came to me, "What in the world do they mean by 12 days?!"
It is clear they were parroting something they knew nothing about....as they attempted to avoid the word "Christmas" they highlighted the season.
At my house, the tree and decorations stay up till at least the 6th of Jan for the feast of the Epiphany.
At my house, we follow an old polish custom of marking all the door posts with the initials of the Three Kings, separated by a cross, using blessed chalk on the door posts above the doors. Looks like this G+M+B 05
The story goes something like this: On Jan 6, when the three wise men are on their way to Bethlehem, if your doors are marked, they will pass through your house and give their blessing to your family and each room that is marked. Is it true? Will they actually pass through your house? I don't know but its a wonderful custom and IF it is true, well, we can never have too many blessings!
Thanks for your posts!
Catholics were oppressed in the colonies, also. The protestant reformation in Maryland was fairly brutal.
The rise of the Church of England (not a Christian church), promulgated by the divorce of Henry the VIII was not a spontanious outpouring by religious libertarians.
England.(translated "Angel-terre" of "Land of the angels") was Catholic the day after the first Roman outpost crumbled.
British Protestants need to complete their unholy rebellion by dropping "Land of Angels" as the name of their country and stick with "Britain" or any other pagan/athiest/socialist concoction they can think of.
The Advent wreath with the one pink candle was a happy accident.
The embarrassing (to him) image of the Holy Family would come up and he would never, ever preach on it.
Some of his churches would even put a manger on the altar!!!! Horror of Horror STATUES!!!!
And now we come to this 12 days of Christmas song...what? no one-day celebration with a turkey, $1400.00 in gifts for the kiddies delivered by Satan Claus followed up by some football game?????
Even as a taditional Catholic I have always thought the supposedly hidden premise of the song was a lot of bunk. There is nothing in the song that so called non Catholic Chrstians would object to. So why would the meanings have to be hidden?
Lets say there were hidden Catholic meanings. Who would hold the catechism class to teach this to all the kiddies, and how would you keep this class a secret? Once the kids went to it the whole neighborhood would know about it.
And how would the author have spread the word about his intentions? Would he send a notice around to all the Catholics he knew? He may indeed have wrtten the song with those hidden inentions in mind, but he may even have been a protestant, because I'm sure even protestants appreciate a catchy jingle with a double entendre religious meaning.
Any set of numbers from 1-12 can be used to bring to mind almost any set of circumstances.
I think it was during the 50's or 60's Red Sovine had a popular song out about a deck of cards. It seems a soldier took out the deck during a wartime religious service and got in trouble for it until he explained the religious meaning of every card in the deck. He used it as his Bible. It's possible some person will find this song 500 years from now and attribute it to the oppression of the 60's and howChristians had to resort to a deck ofcards to pray in secret, and be glad they didn't live during those barbaric times.
Obviously not Catholic. None of the images are Mary.
There are threads around about "Deck of Cards". I believe it was written by T. 'Texas' Tyler, and I have the Wink Martindale version (I didn't know Red 'Teddy Bear' Sovine also recorded it). I googled it a while back; but haven't lately...
Could the children have been taught at home by their parents?
One by one the poem/music could have been distributed without notice.
It seems we all need to look back into history and see if Catholics were really prosecuted during these times. That, as far as I am aware, has not been researched on this particular thread.
Nope, Christmas runs through the Epiphany! And Christmastime in the Catholic Church covers two octaves, (weeks) until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Are you serious or just pouting? I for one am not in doubt about the persecution of Catholics during this era. The English martyrs are among the greatest heroes of the Church to have given their blood for Jesus and the Church and I hope will never be forgotten.
It's just the prominence and mystique this song has garnered that I question.
If this is really true - then why was much of the NT scripture not written in "mother goose rhyme" fashion in some of the more intense days of persecution for the church in the Roman world when believers were used as torches or fed to the lions? I am personally glad that I don't have to sing some silly little ditty in order to disguise Truth, because I know that He whose Truth it is says that we are to simply we proclaim Him. In Spirit and in Truth - not in nursery rhymes!
Just the thought of hearing that makes me glad that I don't frequent the old news sources. Ick!
**The story goes something like this: On Jan 6, when the three wise men are on their way to Bethlehem, if your doors are marked, they will pass through your house and give their blessing to your family and each room that is marked. Is it true? Will they actually pass through your house? I don't know but its a wonderful custom and IF it is true, well, we can never have too many blessings!**
I have heard of marking the initials. But the part about the Three Wise Men passing through your household is new to me. Guess I'll have to look for it.
Thank you for the history lesson! I knew it was true!
I thought that you were doubting the persecuting of Catholics. I understand how the song could have or might not have referred to secret inferences.
Are you serious?
BTTT on the First Day of Christmas.
And I suppose there were never any signs in the Unitied States:
"Catholics Need Not Apply"????