More Than An Old Song

We all know the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Love it or hate it, there’s something about it that has caught and held our collective imagination for the 235 years since it was first published in England. It’s probably even much older than that, with French versions dating well back further in history. The twelve days mentioned in the song begin with Christmas Day and continue through Epiphany, also called Twelfth Night, on which we celebrate the arrival of the Magi and their gifts. As a children’s song, it has been used to teach some of the basic beliefs of Christianity. The next time you hear it being played on the radio, listen to it with the ears of faith and you’ll be reminded of the beauty and the real meaning of Christmas.  

The “true love” mentioned as the giver of all the gifts is, of course, God Himself, Who gives us everything that is good. The Partridge in a Pear Tree is Jesus Christ. Given on the first day of Christmas, Jesus is our greatest gift. Partridges will fiercely protect the chicks in their nests, even to the point of sacrificing themselves to save their offspring from a predator. The Pear Tree represents the Virgin Mary, who gave Jesus His first home, bearing the sweet fruit of our salvation in her spotless body. The Two Turtle Doves we receive on the second day represent the Old and the New Testaments. Together, these Holy Scriptures reveal to us the story of creation and the love of God for His people. We learn how this relationship was broken through sin and how God went about redeeming us through the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross.  

On the third day of Christmas, we receive Three French Hens. Most believe that these gifts recall the precious offerings by the wise men to the Christ Child. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh remind us to always give our best to Christ. The fourth day comes with a gift of Four Calling Birds. These are the four Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John which call all of us to new life in Christ. The Five Golden Rings of the fifth day represent the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. The Pentateuch gives us the history of God’s people and reveals to us His love, in spite of our unfaithfulness.  

On the sixth day, we’re given the Six Geese A-Laying. God created the world and all that is in it in those first six days. This verse reminds us to be grateful to Him for all His gifts and to be a good and faithful steward of creation. Seven Swans A-Swimming come to us on the seventh day. In Romans, we’re told by St. Paul about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In the Catholic Church, there are also seven Sacraments given to us by Jesus: Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  

The eighth day of Christmas reveals the Eight Maids A-Milking. These recall the eight Beatitudes preached by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Like milk feeds our bodies as food, the Beatitudes feed our spirit in how to live the Gospel of Christ. The ninth day dawns with the Nine Ladies Dancing and these remind us of the fruits of the Holy Spirit which St. Paul recalls in Galatians. When our lives bear this holy fruit, we are distinguished by our: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  

On the tenth day of Christmas, we receive the Ten Lords A-Leaping which are the Ten Commandments. They reveal to us God’s path of righteousness leading to a life that is pleasing to God. The Eleven Pipers Piping on the next day are the eleven faithful Apostles who answered the call of Jesus. Judas, who betrayed our Lord, is not included in this number. And on the last of the twelve days, we receive the Twelve Drummers Drumming. These are the twelve statements of belief which Christians profess in the Apostles’ Creed. So the next time you hear this old, familiar song, remember that each verse reminds us of the great love of our God and His plan for our salvation. Celebrate the birth of His Son and sing to Him in grateful joy for the gift of the Christ Child. And remember that Christmas is a season and not just one day—celebrate each of the twelve days of Christmas!

“God is here. This truth should fill our lives.”

     —-St. Josemaria Escriva



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The 4th Sunday of Advent is Here! | Day By Day in Our World

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