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What exactly are the "Twelve Days of Christmas?"
What exactly are the Twelve Days of Christmas?

The Twelve Days of Christmas are the twelve days between Christmas Day, December 25, and Epiphany, January 6.

These twelve days were memorialized in a popular song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," written by a gentleman named Drennon.

During the period 1558 to 1829, it was a crime to be a Catholic in England. Catholics were prohibited from any practice of their faith by law - private or public. Anyone caught with things that associated him with Catholicism, such as religious writings, would be severely punished. Devotion to the Catholic faith could get you imprisoned, hanged, or beheaded.

Drennon wrote the "Twelve Days of Christmas" as one of the "catechism songs" to teach young Catholics the tenets of their faith in song, instead of in written form.

It was a great memory tool that aided them in the learning of their faith while still hiding the fact that they were still practicing Catholicism. Drennon helped to prevent these young Catholics from being punished for reading religious books.

Each of the gifts given in this song has a hidden meaning intended to help teach and preserve the Catholic faith. For instance, the "true love" mentioned in the song does not refer to an earthly lover--it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the gift refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge who fakes injury to lure predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so..."

The other symbols mean the following:
    2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
    3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity-- the Theological Virtues
    4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
    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 gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
    8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
    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

The Twelve Days of Christmas differ very little from other religious celebrations, in that they give us a reason to celebrate and exchange gifts.

Initially, people carefully meted out their gifts during the course of the twelve days, as Drennon's song reflects, to avoid a glut of presents on Christmas Day.

This old-fashioned approach to gift-giving eventually gave way to today's practice of exchanging gifts on Christmas Day.

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More Trivia Fun!
» Trivia Facts about Christmas
» "Merry Christmas" Around The World
» How did the idea for Santa Claus originate?
» How did Christmas cards come to be?
» Why do we get kissed if we stand under the mistletoe?

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