The real meaning of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’

Posted By on December 18, 2010

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series History of Religion and the Christian Church
12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas…source: Dr. Phillip Barnwell In the Church “Christmas” refers to a twelve day period that starts with Christmas Day. There is where “The Twelve Days of Christmas” comes from.

The world celebrates Christmas for 24 hours, but the Church celebrates if for 12 days because the gift of Christ is with us for twelve months of the year.

When most people hear of “The 12 Days of Christmas” they think of the song. This song originated as a tool to instruct young people in the meaning and content of the Christian faith.

From 1558 to 1829 Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to practice their faith openly. Someone wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. “The 12 Days of Christmas” is an allegory. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the song is a code for a religious reality which helped the children remember.

The song says, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me….” The “true love” represents God and the “me” who receives these presents in the Christian.

…the “partridge in a pear tree” was Jesus Christ who died on a tree as a gift from God. .
..the “two turtle doves” were the Old and New Testaments–another gift from God.
…the “three French hens” were faith, hope and love–the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (I Corinthians 13).
…the “four calling birds” were the four Gospels, the books of MatthewMarkLuke and John.
…the “five golden rings” were the first five books of the Bible, also called the Torah, the law or Books of Moses. (GenesisExodusLeviticusNumbersDeuteronomy.
…the “six geese a-laying” were the six days of creation.
…the “seven swans a swimming” were seven gifts of the Spirit listed in Romans 12: prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, administration and mercy.
…the “eight maids a-milking” were the eight beatitudes found in the Sermon on the Mount.
…the “nine ladies dancing” were nine friuts of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23).
…the “ten lords a-leaping” were the Ten Commandments.
…the “eleven pipers piping” were the eleven faithful disciples. .
..the “twelve drummers drumming” were the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

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Merry Christmas

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Step back in time and experience what it would have been like to be the daughter of the Roman magistrate, curious about the new sect of Christianity. Betrothed to a man she doesn't love, in love with a man her family would disapprove of, told that the gods she grew up believing in are false, Claudia learns to seek and follow God’s will while coping with her tyrannical father’s plan for her future and his goal of maintaining his “dignitas.” Discover the beginnings of the early Christian church and how they converted the pagans. Experience the life, culture and society of the Ancient Roman Empire. Be there when Vesuvius erupts and buries Pompeii and its inhabitants. A Romeo & Juliet story set in 1st Century Italy with an awesome ending!


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