The 12 Days of Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas songs is the 12 days of Christmas. I have an old recording of it from on old album called “Christmas Greetings”. Its one of those albums that we bought from the local hardware store that was a compilation of Christmas songs from various artist…. and it was cheep. I love the part of the song that goes “FIVE GOLDEN RINGS”. The version I have slows that line down, the choir sings to the top of their lungs, and the orchestra is becomes very majestic at that point, making you feel like something important has just been said….

and it has…

but its not just the five golden rings that has a significant meaning in the song. In fact the song was written in the dark ages durning a time period where the church began to hold “the twelve days of Christmas worship services” (it must be shorter in latin) that would begin on December 25th and end on January 5th. It was during this time Christians were encouraged to focus on rededication and renewal. For many years the 12 “worship days” of Christmas were a cherished tradition. I wish we could slow down long enough to meet for 12 days in a row to corporately worship together at Christmas… but hey thats just me.

Here is what each line of the song represents.

“On the first day of Christmas my true love (God the Father) gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.” The partridge is Jesus. Christ here is symbolically presented as a mother partridge because it is the only English bird that would die to protect its young. Jesus Christ, God’s Son came and took our punishment for our sins by dying on the cross. He gave his life to protect us from Hell.

On the second day the two turtledoves, i.e. the ‘twin birds” represent the Old and New Testaments in the Bible. It is these two turtledoves that give us God’s road map for our lives.

On the third day of Christmas the three french hens “birds” are the 3 gifts God gives us on a daily bases. Faith Hope and Love.

On the forth day we are given four calling “birds” which are the four Gospels in the Bible, the story of the life of Christ.

On the fifth day…

slow down the music and crescendo…



…represent the first five books of the Old Testament. Now some say the “five golden rings refer to 5 ring necked birds and not jewelry… but the meaning is still the same.

Then there are six geese a-laying,representing the 6 days of creation.

The seventh day – seven swans a swimming – are a picture of the seven gifts of the spirit, prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion.

The eighth day we are given seven maids a milking. A woman who milked cows for a living had the lowest and worst Job in England. It is these seven maids that represent the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peace makers and those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

Then there is the 9 ladies dancing, the gifts here represent the fruit of the spirit, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. When you allow God to control your life and live through you, these gifts will touch and impact those who are around you.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true Love (God the Father) gave to me, ten lords leaping. I guess when the women are happy the men are happy… just kidding…. really the 10 Lords are the 10 commandments.

The 11 pipers piping represent the eleven faithful Apostles.

and finally the 12 drummers drumming are the 12 points of the apostle’s creed.

A few final points:
The order of the last 4 maybe different than the order you are used to listening to.

This is information is based on tradition that has been past down concerning these meanings, in our secular world today there is a push to discount anything thing Christian. When I was growing up I was taught what this song meant. would say this information did not appear till the 1990s. If these are not the meanings than what is the symbolism? You would not give your wife a bird in a tree… or all the birds this song talks about for that matter… think about the droppings. And Lords leaping? Why would you send men… that are in shape… to the one you are trying to win over? (I could post on this topic but maybe another time)

The song was not used to teach doctrine as some have said, just to celebrate Christmas.

So there you go… for whatever it’s worth.

2 thoughts on “The 12 Days of Christmas

  1. > I love the part of the song that goes “FIVE GOLDEN RINGS”.

    ARGH! That’s the most irritating part of the song, and it’s why I dislike the song so much. It makes absolutely NO sense to do it, and it destroys the rhythmic flow of the song. It approaches (but, admittedly, never quite reaches) the irritation level of Minnie Riperton squealing in “Loving You”.

    1. It’ll be ok… My suggestion to you is to make sure it’s not on your Christmas play list and if it comes in the radio turn it off… You can do this!

      If you’re in a store and it starts playing you can leave or put your fingers in your ears.

      If I think of other helpful ways to suggest to you I’ll post them here.

      But don’t reread te post or the tune will get in your head.

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