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True meaning of 'The 12 Days of Christmas'


Last updated 1/3/2008 at Noon

Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were prohibited from any practice of their faith by law – private or public. It was a crime to be a Catholic.

“The 12 Days of Christmas” was written in England as one of the “catechism songs” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith. The hidden meanings are:

• True love = God

• Me = baptized person

• Partridge in a pear tree = Jesus Christ

• Two turtle doves = The Old and New Testaments

• Three French hens = Faith, hope and charity

• Four calling birds = The four gospels

• Five golden rings = The first five books of the Old Testament (the “Pentateuch”)

• Six geese a-laying = The six days of creation

• Seven swans a-swimming = The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit

• Eight maids a-milking = The eight beatitudes

• Nine ladies dancing = The 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 doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

Being caught with anything in writing that indicated adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged, or shortened by a head – hanged, drawn and quartered.

Mark Corcoran


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