Dec 13 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

From the book The ADVENTure of Chrsitmas (Helping Children Find Jesus in our Holiday Traditions) by Lisa Whelchel.

I know you've heard of Christmas cookies and Christmas carols, but have you ever heard of the Christmas code?  It just may be that the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is really about more than partridges and golden rings.


For nearly three hundred years, it was against the law in England to be a member of the Catholic church.  Well, that didn't keep Catholic parents from wanting to teach their children about God, but in order to do so they had to be creative.

And here is where we leave the world of certain history and move into the misty realm of legends.  As the story goes, several of these concerned parents got together and wrote "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  They used a secret code hidden in the song to teach their children about the things of God.  Let me crack the code for you!

"My true love" represents God, who gives all the gifts listed in the song.

"A partridge in a pear tree" is Jesus, who gave His life on a tree (the cross).

"Two turtle doves" symbolize the Old and New Testaments.

"Three French hens" are faith, hope, and love.

"Four calling birds" speak of the four Gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke , and John.

"Five golden rings" correspond to the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Pentateuch.

"Six geese a-laying" stand for the six days of creation.

"Seven swans a-swimming" are the seven gifts of the Spirit (Romans 12:6-8).

"Eight maids a-milking" point to the eight beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10).

"Nine ladies dancing" signify the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

"Ten lords a-leaping" represent the Ten Commandments.

"Eleven pipers piping" are the eleven faithful disciples.  And finally...

"Twelve drummers drumming" call to mind the twelve points of the Apostle's Creed.

Learning this song would help the children remember some important facts about Christianity.  Best of all, they could sing it publicly!  When they did, they declared their allegiance to the King of kings.

Comments (18) -

12/13/2009 3:29:39 PM
Ken United States
Another wonderful story, but seems fairly unlikely to me, especially given that their are many version of this song, and few of the "gifts" seem to bespeak any spiritual message (ie. How would "leaping lords" make anyone think of The Ten Commandments?)

However, at least this story does not claim to be truth, but merely the legend of one possible origin.

If we as Christians wish to add a "true Christmas" meaning to the words of this old song, I suppose we have every right to do so. Just don't go telling everyone you know that you know the "true meaning" of the words, for fear of being written off as a fool.
12/13/2009 4:18:12 PM
Andrea United States
I hate to be a wet blanket, but I found this article at very interesting.

There is certainly nothing wrong with choosing to teach your children that the items in the 12 Days of Christmas represent theological things, but just know that it is NOT a historical practice.
12/13/2009 5:20:33 PM
Andrea United States
I hate to be a wet blanket, but I found this article at very interesting.

There is certainly nothing wrong with choosing to teach your children that the items in the 12 Days of Christmas represent theological things, but just know that it is NOT a historical practice.
12/13/2009 7:58:18 PM
RG de Stolfe United States
RG de Stolfe
So many Christmas traditions have become "shallow" because the original meanings and histories have gotten cut off. How wonderful to know that the many Christmas traditions, like songs, have a deep Christian root that reestablishes the true meanings! I knew the 12 Days of Christmas had to have some sort of meaning. Thank you for showing us the truth of such an awesome song!
12/14/2009 11:14:07 AM
Macie United States
I like the way the differant numbers represent differant things in the Bible!
12/14/2009 11:18:32 AM
Jamie Johnson United States
Jamie Johnson
It seems nice and confusing. If I was to tell a secret in code, the child would tell that code, however back in the day my understanding is that children respected and was able to understand. I would like to go back in time to witness but not to live there. Either way thanks for the story.
12/14/2009 7:25:51 PM
Gary United States
Andrea is correct, as nice as the story sounds, it simply is NOT true. Please visit to get the truth.
12/16/2009 7:15:12 AM
Candace Roman United States
Candace Roman
Oftentimes people take snopes as law,however,they state their case(and I am not willing to comment either way,personally) but they,themselves,can not actually prove one way or another whether it is in fact true or not-their case is circumstantial as well. Snopes also ripped on The Candy Cane -I say simply this-I don't care when or where the tradition began -if there is any song or tool that can be used to glorify The Father and to teach our children to do likewise let's use that to His benefit!! There are enough secularists trying to take everything related to Christ out of Christmas  without our helping them to do so. AMEN?!
12/13/2010 7:51:26 AM
Patti United States
Thank you for sharing this.  Whether or not it is true doesn't matter--it keeps our eyes on Jesus--the reason we celebrate Christmas!!  Praise Him!
12/13/2010 12:40:04 PM
Shirley/Denver CO United States
Shirley/Denver CO
12 Days of Christmas ~ This is a great legend ~~~
Lisa was upfront about this likely being a legend, so why people need to be so defensive about a
beautiful story... Just enjoy ~
I love it and printed it to share with family.
Thank you.
Blessed to Be a Blessing ~ Shirley

Merry Christmas Everyone Smile
12/13/2010 3:10:09 PM
Kirk United States
Candace is exactly right, Snopes could be right or wrong.  This legend could be true or it might not be.  There is not enough evidence in either direction so it is really just a guess.  Either way, stories are interesting to read, but we have plenty as Christians to be excited about in the real Christmas story to not hitch our sleigh to a story that may or may not be accurate.  Merry Christmas.
12/13/2010 9:28:08 PM
Robin United States
I agree with what Shirley says. Lisa was upfront about this most likely being a legend. Even so, I felt blessed this morning on my way to work just to hear the reminders that were mentioned in this Legend. The correlations that were used reminded me just how much God loves us. Anything that reminds us of the love of our Lord whether legend or not, can only be a wonderful thing. If this points one or more people to the real reason for Christmas, in my book it's a praise!
12/14/2010 5:54:24 PM
Candace T United States
Candace T
I'm doing a school paper on this and I found out all about this last week! I was amazed to realize what this long, drawn out song really meant! It was also fascinating to find that the 12 days of Christmas is the 12 days after Christmas, not before, and the last day is when they celebrate the Magi! I really wrote this 2 thank you for clearing up stuff for me (because i wasn't sure where it originated) so thanks again! Smile
12/15/2010 10:27:48 PM
Jeff United States
Please - anyone with a passing familiarity with the Reformation or English history would know there's not a shred of evidence for this.  Ask yourself why Catholic parents would bother to teach their children a song to remember theological points that were identical to Protestant theology?  The answer is - they wouldn't.  Calling something legend and then passing it on doesn't absolve one of the responsibility to speak the truth, and clearly many people who have read this story are uncritically taking it as "gospel" (pun intended) anyway.  Why do Christians feel the need to put a stamp of ownership on everything out there by spiritualizing things that are obviously not Christian?  That's kind of how we ended up with the Christmas holiday in the first place (I'm pretty sure Saturnalia didn't have anything to do with Jesus).  The world hates that - symbolic religion instead of real love.  We shouldn't rely on trees, nativity scenes, songs, crosses, candy canes, a date on a calendar or or any other symbols to force Christmas or Christianity on an unbelieving world.  All these symbols can and perhaps will be taken away from us - but they can't take away our love.  Let's try to keep perspective on what matters and on what's irrelevant fluff.
12/20/2010 6:13:06 PM
Deb United States
Amen Candance !!! Glorify God !!! Christmas Blessings ...
12/21/2010 1:08:07 PM
Andrea Weber Romania
Andrea Weber
Wow, that's amazing! I had no idea that this song was coded! Thanks so much for sharing the story!
12/22/2010 5:41:53 AM
LK Shinneman (Just LK) United States
LK Shinneman (Just LK)
I'm feeling sorry for what Jesus must think when he sees us act this way. He talked about those who follow the law to the letter but are dead inside where it counts. How many times did He say "Love one another as I have loved you"? When we make contact with the unbelievers out there, do we do so as Jesus did? Or do most of us look at them as the enemy and down right evil? We judge and decide who is worthy of love. If a story (and some of my favorite stories are completely made up) has a good purpose then it is good. I don't believe that we should promote lying under any circumstance so just say that legend has it for anything you want to believe in and you are not telling a lie. Why get so upset with people who want to believe that the song had a dual meaning? Fairy tales are just that, make believe. Sometimes make believe can be a powerful way to get in touch with your God light that everyone has within them. You can make believe that everyone loves one another and watch your attitude change when you meet strangers. Offer them a little love with a greeting of "How are you?". "Have a great day!" Hold the door open for someone and watch how they really appreciate the kindness. The love is returned by you seeing their God light shine. It is LOVE. It defeats all. May His peace be with you and yours, especially during this season of celebrating His birth...LK
2/6/2011 8:49:20 AM
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In any case.
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