The Real 12 Days of Christmas
Do you still have that Christmas feeling of joy and wonder of the days leading up to Christmas morning? The Christmas feeling of love and peace that settles in your heart and brings a smile to your face. The warm Christmas feeling of giving and sharing and singing Christmas carols all day long for anyone to hear. The song of the twelve days of Christmas and the silly way we all shout out “Five Golden Rings!” As a result, you probably just started singing that song. Consequently, you got stuck on the 10 ladies dancing, or is it the 10 lords a leaping?However you sing it, do you really understand it? What makes the real twelve days of Christmas so important that they have their own song? Maybe you haven’t given it much thought, but exactly when do the real twelve days of Christmas start and end?
Well, they are not the twelve days leading up to Christmas where you have to go and spend close to $87,000 for all the gifts the song talks about. Rather, they are something more. While these gifts would be really nice, they are something more special and something more beautiful than we ever thought. It seems like these gifts are the key to that Christmas feeling.
First of all, the real twelve days of Christmas start on Christmas Day, with the birth of Jesus Christ, and end on January 6th, the Epiphany. This is the day that it is believed that the Magi arrived and presented their gifts to the Christ child. This time between Christmas and the Epiphany are so special, so important to the Christian faith, that they have their own song. Hence, the song that probably originated in France as far back as 1625, has lost its meaning over time and now is just sung as a fun song where everyone forgets the nine maids a milking, no wait, is it eight maids a milking?
Perhaps you would like to know another reason to sing this song and help remember what Christians remember during this Christmas season. And most of all, we can try to remember and keep that Christmas feeling for the whole year.
“On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”
Photo: Flickr/Wil C. Fry
The lyrics repeat throughout the entire song, “My True Love.” Perhaps it is your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife. It seems like it is something bigger than just one person. Maybe it is deeper than any love you will ever know. Maybe it is bigger than any love you can imagine. Every Christian will understand who “My True Love” is. While some will believe it is someone here on Earth, others will know that it is quite simply, God. He loved us before He knew us and consequently loves us still, no matter what, unconditional and without pause. Most importantly of all, He is the True love in this song.
The partridge is Jesus. Most noteworthy, the partridge is the only bird in all of the bird kingdom that will lure its enemies away from its nest and even sacrifice itself for its young. Christ died for his children, his babes in the nest, on the cross and therefore the cross is represented by the pear tree.
“On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves…”
These two doves which are symbols of truth and peace are most assuredly the Old and New Testaments. They guide Christians in their daily lives and tell us how to live a Christian life through Christ’s teachings.
“On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three French hens…”
This one could have three special meanings, which in itself is very important. First of all it represents the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Furthermore, it could also be the three gifts the Magi brought of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And finally, perhaps, the Theological Virtues : Faith, Hope, and Love, the greatest of these is love, true love. There is power in three, remember that.
“On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds…”
These four calling birds, hence some refer to them as colly birds, which means black birds, and therefore were considered food to be made into a pie. Our birds in this song were more than just food to eat, these birds would travel the world and sing the praises of Jesus Christ. As a result these birds are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the Four Gospels. They traveled far and wide and spread His teachings and wrote their accounts of Christ’s life. These calling birds, wrote the food for our Christian soul.
“On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five golden rings…”
Photo: Flickr/Rob McCready
These golden rings are from the ringed necked pheasant, an elegant and graceful bird, and as a result represent the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Especially relevant, these books are known as the Torah or the Pentateuch, the fives books of Moses. Christians also like the teachings from Luke 10:27, “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Hence, these are truly golden rings.
“On the 6th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese a laying…”
While these six geese represent the six days of creation, the egg, from where all new life comes, symbolizes creation.
“On the 7th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven swans a swimming…”
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit written by Paul are Prophesy, Service, Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership, and Mercy. Therefore, these gifts can be shared. Furthermore, these gifts are hidden in your spirit.
“On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight maids a milking…”
Okay, so we’ve moved away from birds and now we are talking about people. Real people, like you and me. Christians believe that Christ will come to you. He will come to even the lowest person, the servant, the maid a milking, the ones the world forgot. Christ is there for the common people. Consequently, it also shows meaning in the eight beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)
“On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing…”
The nine ladies are the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace (shalom), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
“On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 10 lords a leaping…”
These lords are leaping for the Ten Commandments. The laws from God himself are to guide us as Christians and strengthen us to live our lives in his “true love’s” light.
“On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 11 pipers piping…”
Although there were 12 apostles that followed Christ, 11 were true to him and remained faithful. A Christian strives to be a piper and play faithfully for all to hear.
“On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 12 drummers drumming…”
This last day of giving represents the 12 points of the Apostles Creed. The drummers keep the beat as you recite the creed. 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of 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 [the grave]. 5) On the third day, he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.
These are the real twelve days of Christmas. These days are here for you to reflect on and build in your heart that Christmas feeling. Therefore, spend these next few days thinking and praying on all that has been given to us, to you, as Christians, from God, our true love. These special gifts are more than a song to sing, more than gifts to buy. We may not get to unwrap these presents every year, but we can share them all year long with everyone. Share that Christmas feeling today and throughout the coming year with all you may meet and they will see a Christian in everything you do.