>The 12 Days of WHAT??? When?

12 Dec

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[This is a repost from last year about this time. Interesting stuff that no one knows. Much like most of the shenaniganery that goes on this time of year.]
You’re all familiar with the Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” I think. To most it’s a delightful nonsense rhyme set to music. But it had a quite serious purpose when it was written.
It is a good deal more than just a repetitious melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange gifts.
Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law – private OR public. It was a crime to BE a Catholic.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written in England as one of the “catechism songs” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith – a memory aid, 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, or shortened by a head – or hanged, drawn and quartered, a rather peculiar and ghastly punishment I’m not aware was ever practiced anywhere else. Hanging, drawing and quartering involved hanging a person by the neck until they had almost, but not quite, suffocated to death; then the party was taken down from the gallows, and disembowelled while still alive; and while the entrails were still lying on the street, where the executioners stomped all over them, the victim was tied to four large farm horses, and literally torn into five parts – one to each limb and the remaining torso.
The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The “true love” mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents 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 which feigns injury to decoy 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 gives 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
Also, as it is commonly believed, the 12 Days themselves are NOT the days leading up to Christmas, but inversely begin on the day AFTER Christmas, December 26th – leading up to Epiphany on January 6th.
Useless Jeopardy trivia for ya!
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14 Responses to “>The 12 Days of WHAT??? When?”

  1. Rene/ Not The Rockefellers December 12, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    >I am so glad you posted this! I was just talking about how the song had roots in religious meanings…poppycock I was told..so now here's some proof :)Thanks

  2. Rabbit December 12, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    >Leave it to the Catholics, I guess. I always get a kick when people say they are celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas, and I am like "Um, Dude… They don't start 'til after Christmas. Put your pecker back in your pants, my friend."

  3. David Dust December 12, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    >I love stuff like this and will probably steal it. Great post.

  4. Rabbit December 12, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    >Steal away! It wouldn't be Christmas without thievery!

  5. mel December 12, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    >well.i'm sorely tempted to make reference to the pagans who then had to hide their faith from the Catholics by burying it in code and symbol to avoid much the same punishments — one would think a bit of learned compassion would be in order….but let's not start a holy war, shall we? *snark*feel free to edit this comment for content. the watercolour paint fumes have disconnected my brain-to-fingers filter…cool bit o' trivia though…xo

  6. Rabbit December 12, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    >Well, you know Mel, the Pagans really get the last laugh this time of year to see the homes of all the "Good Christians" just dripping with lights (to entice the Gods to visit and to welcome home lost souls) and what their Bible would call a "False Idol" plonked down right smack dab in the middle of their living rooms all worshipped up to high heaven (pun intended) – but of course the Pagans didn't murder the tree and drag the poor thing inside… So turn abouts fair play, I guess!!!

  7. Oilfield Trash December 12, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    >I never looked it at from that point of view. Although I did remake the song last weekend and sang it to my brother and my son when they pissed me off.

  8. Magaly Guerrero December 12, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    >I thought you were joking when you said about hanging, drowning and quartering were rare punishment, then I figured you were referring to WAY back in the days. Like Mel, I also think that it is ironic (sickening and heartbreaking) that the church of the time then turned around and did to Pagans the same terrible things someone else did to them, and worse.People are just weird, and mean… but I'll stay in the positive side and say that times have changed and still changing for the better.

  9. Mynx December 12, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    >great post. I had no idea what the song was about. I did know about the 12 days startign after tho.Gave you a wee award on my page hun. Hope you like

  10. Mrs. Hyde December 13, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    >I love useless Jeopardy trivia! I'm a dork…I already know this.@Mel- History hasn't taught us any compassion at all. Seems like the only reason people fight to overcome oppression is so they can oppress someone else.

  11. DW December 13, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    >Wow….thanks for posting this, great stuff:)

  12. Caren Gittleman December 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    >I never knew ANY of this and I thank you for sharing it again!

  13. Marsha66 December 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    >I always thought it was the 12 days after xmas too.

  14. becca December 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    >wow i did not know this thanks i now know something new. i love learning new things.

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