What are the Twelve Days of Christmas, Anyway?

Twelve Days of Christmas

Many are familiar with the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ through the fast-paced, entertaining holiday carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Featuring what most assume to be a starstruck lover bestowing upon the subject of his infatuation, absurd gifts like, turtle doves, french hens, and a partridge in a pear tree.

However, the true twelve days of Christmas mark the period, for some Christians, from the date of Jesus’ birth to the ‘Epiphany’ on the 6th of January. The actual song, however, was written during a time of duress for the Catholic church. When the English government outlawed Catholicism, and practice of the religion resulted in death. The Catholics still practiced their religion, but they did so in secret.

One of the ways they did was by writing a song in code that talked about the love of God and the Christmas story as they believed it. This song was one of the most potent teaching tools for the church at the time. Children and families could sing praises out loud under the guise of a silly holiday song. Each gift symbolized a different aspect of the Catholic beliefs. The giver, the true love, not being a starstruck young man but God himself.

The song gained traction among the Christians, and ironically, by the king, his clergy and non-Catholics alike. They were unknowingly doing just what they were punishing Catholics for. To non-Catholics, it was just an amusing song.

To this day the song is a widely known carol typically conveyed in a nonsensical tone. Those who wrote the song many hundreds of years ago may have wanted the actual meaning of the Christ-centered song well known, but still, the song prevails through the centuries with only a few knowing the real meaning.

12 days of

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