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Meaning of the "The Twelve Days of Christmas" song.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English Christmas carol that enumerates a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. Although first published in England in 1780, textual evidence may indicate the song is French in origin.

Three French versions of the song are known. In the west of France the piece is known as a song, "La foi de la loi," the sequence being: a good stuffing without bones, two breasts of veal, three joints of beef, four pigs' trotters, five legs of mutton, six partridges with cabbage, seven spitted rabbits, eight plates of salad, nine dishes for a chapter of canons, ten full casks, eleven beautiful full-breasted maidens, and twelve musketeers with their swords.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a cumulative song, meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by "my true love" on one of the twelve days of Christmas.

The first verse runs:
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

The second verse:
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

The third verse begins to show some metrical variance, as explained below:
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

...and so forth, until the last verse:
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
10 Lords-a-Leaping
9 Ladies Dancing
8 Maids-a-Milking
7 Swans-a-Swimming
6 Geese-a-Laying
5 Gold Rings
4 Colly Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Some Christians interpret the song this way:

A partridge in a pear tree: Jesus
Two turtle doves: The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens: The three theological virtues faith, hope and love
Four calling birds: The four Gospels
Five gold rings: The Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament
Six geese a-laying: The six days of Creation
Seven swans a-swimming: Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milking: The eight Beatitudes
Nine ladies dancing: Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords a-leaping: The Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers piping: The eleven faithful Apostles
Twelve drummers drumming: The twelve points of the Apostles' Creed


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