We have all heard the silliness of the Twelve days of Christmas and the litany of gifts bestowed by the true love. Have you ever wondered what that song is really about? Whether you believe it or not, there is a much deeper message to the song that has spiritual roots.
During the protestant rule of England the teachings of the Catholic church were forbidden and the church as a whole was outlawed. It was during this time that the church went into hiding and sought ways to teach their doctrine in secret. One of the ways that the doctrine spread was through the Twelve days of Christmas.
Before we launch into the meaning of the song, we need to remember that there were twelve days to Christmas. These twelve days began on Christmas Day and went through the celebration of Epiphany twelve days later. The song begins one a specific day of Christmas and my true love gave to me. The true love in the song is God the Father and the many gifts are different aspects of faith.
Here is a list of the various days and their gifts with the respected meanings.
The first day of Christmas was a partridge in a pear tree. The partridge is considered one of the most protective birds and shelters their young with their own bodies. The partridge represents the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The cross is often referred to as a tree and it seems fitting that the partridge is in a tree.
The two turtle doves represent the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is divided into two major books of the Old and New Testaments. Christians regard the Bible as the inspired word of God and the most sacred book of faith. The Bible is clearly vital to Christian faith.
The three French hens are for the three major virtues, faith, hope, and love. The Apostle Paul writes of the three vital aspects of Christian character in 1 Corinthians 13. These virtues are important points to developing a Christian perspective in life.
The four calling birds represent the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The gospels contain the message and ministry of Jesus. It is in these first four books of the New Testament that we find the message of salvation and the good news of Jesus Christ. These are considered, the most important books in the Bible.
The five golden rings are the first five books of the Bible also known as the Pentateuch. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy contain the creation of the universe, the establishment of the nation of Israel, the story of Moses, and the giving of the Hebrew Law. The Pentateuch is the section of Biblical literature called the books of the Law.
The six geese a laying stand for the six days of creation. The Bible clearly teaches the belief that God created the universe in six days. This belief is core to much of the teachings of the Bible.
The seven swans a swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are prophecy, ministry, exhortation, teaching, giving, leading, and compassion.
The eight maids a milking are for the eight Beatitudes taught by Jesus in the sermon on the mount.
The nine ladies dancing stand for the nine fruits of the spirit. The Apostle Paul records nine character traits that are imparted through the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. The fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
The ten lords a leaping stand for the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are the basis for the Jewish Law and are the foundation for most moral codes found in modern society.
The eleven pipers piping are the eleven faithful disciples. Jesus chose twelve disciples to serve as leaders known as apostles. Judas betrayed Jesus and turned him over to Jewish authorities. Jesus was crucified the next day and Judas committed suicide. This left only eleven apostles.
The twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve points of the Apostles Creed. The Apostles Creed is the first statement of faith established by the early church. The creeds were statements that communicated the understanding of faith and the basic beliefs of the church.
The next time you hear the Twelve Days of Christmas remember there is meaning behind the message of the classic Christmas song.