Walk into any big store, and it’s great to hear Christmas carols. Wish more were in Japanese, though. The popular carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” has hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith. In the 16th century, during religious wars in England, music and poetry were often used to promote politically incorrect teachings to children. Secretly. Thus each of the “days” represents an aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.
The English wrote carols, but the Puritans suppressed these religious songs. After Christmas was restored in England, festive songs praising feasting and good will developed. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” became popular as a song to teach the doctrines of the faith. Here’s the hidden message.
1. The “true love” refers to God the Father Who in love sent His only Begotten Son to be our Savior. The “me” receiving the presents is every believer. The “partridge in a pear tree” is Jesus Christ, Whose birthday we celebrate on Dec. 25, the first “day” of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings as was Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it
2. Two Turtle Doves. The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God’s self-revelation in history and the creation of believers to proclaim His Story of Salvation to the world.
3. Three French Hens. The Three Theological Virtues: 1. Faith, 2. Hope, and 3. Charity.
4. Four Calling Birds. The Four Gospels: 1. Matthew, 2. Mark, 3. Luke and 4. John, which proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.
5. Five Gold Rings. The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch or Torah: 1. Genesis, 2. Exodus, 3. Leviticus, 4. Numbers, and 5. Deuteronomy, which give the history of humanity’s sinful failure and God’s response of grace in the promise of a Savior.
6. Six Geese A-laying. The six days of creation that confess God as Creator of the world.
7. Seven Swans A-swimming. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1. prophecy, 2. ministry, 3. teaching, 4. exhortation, 5. giving, 6. leading, and 7, compassion.
8. Eight Maids A-milking. The eight Beatitudes: 1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2. those who mourn, 3. the meek, 4. those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5. the merciful, 6. the pure in heart, 7. the peacemakers, 8. those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. All good be-attitudes.
9. Nine Ladies Dancing. The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: 1. love, 2. joy, 3. peace, 4. patience, 5. kindness, 6. generosity, 7. faithfulness, 8. gentleness, and 9. self-control.
10. Ten Lords A-leaping. The Ten Commandments: 1. Thou shall have no other gods before me. 2. Do not make or worship any idol. 3. Do not take God’s name in vain. 4. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. 5. Honor your father and mother. 6. Do not murder. 7. Do not commit adultery. 8. Do not steal. 9. Do not bear false witness. 10. Do not covet your neighbor’s house or his wife or anything that is his.
11. Eleven Pipers Piping. The 11 faithful apostles: 1. Simon Peter, 2.
Andrew, 3. James, 4. John, 5. Philip, 6. Bartholomew, 7. Matthew, 8. Thomas, 9. James bar Alphaeus, 10. Simon the Zealot, 11. Judas bar James. (Not including the 12th disciple, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.)
12. Twelve Drummers Drumming. The 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed: 1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2. In Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord. 3. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. 4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. 5. On the third day He rose again. 6. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 8. I believe in the Holy Spirit. 9. The holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. 10. The forgiveness of sins. 11. The resurrection of the body. 12. And life everlasting.
How interesting and sad that a song written to secretly remind Christians about the doctrines of their faith was disguised so well that, after 400 years, the secular world more identifies with this carol than do Christians, mostly unaware of its origins and meanings. Now you know the meaning and, when you hear this carol this Christmas, it will mean more to you. The freedom to exercise our faith is a great blessing. Let’s cherish it.
The conclusion of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” carol is Acts 16:31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house,” the words from Jewish Evangelist Paul to the Roman Italian jailer about to commit suicide. Still true this Christmas! May it be for you and your house is my prayer.