“There ain’t no party like a Catholic party…cause the Catholic party don’t stop!” Oh yeah – Christian Christmas beats secular Christmas – ours goes on a full twelve days 🙂 Unlike those families who dump their Christmas trees with straggly bits of tinsel still hanging from them at the end of the street on Boxing Day.
Legend has it that the traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol was a catechism song for Catholic children during the suppression of Catholicism in England. It seems that no one quite agrees whether or not this theory is true, but it’s certainly interesting, as are many of the other theories about hidden messages of Catholicism in Elizabethan England (such as in Shakespeare’s plays). So, if this hypothesis is indeed historical, here are what each of the Twelve Days characters stand for:
The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ. (Remember Christ’s sadness over Jerusalem, exclaiming, “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks…”)
Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control. (Am I alone in thinking that Catholics believe in twelve?!)
The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.