by: Bernadette Dimitrov

The ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ is today a popular fun Christmas song that most of us sing a long to without really knowing its origin or its meaning. While many may consider it a children’s nonsense song it was written in England with hidden meanings to help English Catholic children remember different articles of faith during the persecution by Protestant Monarchs in the 16th century. This was a time when to be caught with anything in ‘writing’ indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged! ‘True love’ represented ‘God’, the gifts represented different ideas as follows:

The “Partridge in a pear tree” was Jesus.

2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments of The Bible

3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity – the Theological Virtues.

4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”, which relays the history of man’s fall from grace.

6 Geese A-laying = the six days of Creation.

7 Swans A-swimming = the seven sacraments – gifts of the Holy Spirit.

8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes (solemn blessings)

9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

10 Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments.

11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles.

12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed.

Some consider this song to be a fun memory game for children and adults to sing each day over the 12 days of Christmas because of the style it is written in. Each verse adds something new and the giver receives everything previously given. No doubt this song reinforces the idea of gift giving associated with the history of festivities. If one gift is given each day in this song then we can recount a total of 364 gifts given with 184 of them being birds. Birds must have been a prized gift back in the old days!

In recent times an economist computes each year the cost for all the gifts adjusted to inflation. In 2005 the computed Christmas Price Index cost for all the gifts in the song was $72,608. This is done purely for fun from an economist’s point of view!

If you want to listen to this famous Christmas song you can download or play it for free over the internet at: or you can purchase a copy from Enjoy, sing-along, get into the festive spirit and see how good your memory is!

About The Author

Bernadette Dimitrov
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