“The Twelve Days of Christmas” celebrates the Christmas season, running from Christmas day, the feast of the Incarnation, to the traditional date of Epiphany, 6 January, and it’s believed that gifts listed in the carol, from the 12 drummers drumming to the partridge in the pear tree, are based on the tradition and the teachings of the Church.

Tradition has it that it was English Catholics catechizing their children at home during the Reformation when they could not practice their faith publicly.  It was kind of a memory aid for them.

The analogy in the song includes the giver of the gifts. “Who’s your true love? It’s God.”   These are all gifts from God that have been given to us as part of our church history. It’s a good thing to remember what all these presents are that we get at this time of the year.

The Twelve Days of Christmas ’translated’

A partridge in a pear tree = Jesus

Two turtledoves = the Old and New Testaments

Three French hens = the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity

Four calling birds = the four Gospels or the four evangelists

Five golden rings = the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch

Six geese a-laying = the six days of creation

Seven swans a-swimming = the seven sacraments or the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit

Eight maids a-milking = the Eight Beatitudes

Nine ladies dancing = the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit

Ten lords a-leaping = the Ten Commandments

11 pipers piping = the 11 faithful apostles

12 drummers drumming = the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed