The 12 Days of Christmas


Read: Luke 2

One of the best known songs of this Christmas season is the
song entitled “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I ran across an
interesting story recently about that song and thought it
would be a good story to share right before Christmas. The
story goes like this…

Many historians believe the well-known song, The Twelve Days
of Christmas, is actually a Christian hymn in disguise. During
the reign of England’s Queen Elizabeth I, a staunch
protestant, English Catholics were oppressed and persecuted.
Priests met secretly with small groups of Catholics, risking
their lives to conduct worship and observe mass.

Under such circumstances, it was difficult to train or teach
Catholic children. But an unknown, clever priest found a
unique way of teaching the Gospel to children,
using the theme of the twelve days between Christmas and
Epiphany, when the Wise Men, according to tradition, arrived
with their gifts for the Christ child.

The priest hid biblical truth in the symbols he used in his
carol, beginning with the words “On the first day of Christmas
my true love gave to me…” The “True Love” referred to God
the Father, and the “Me” represents the Christian who receives
the gifts. The “Partridge in the Pear tree” is Jesus. Why a
partridge? Mother partridges are known for feigning injury to
decoy predators from their babies. The children were thereby
taught about Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.

The two turtle doves represented the Old and New Testaments.
The three French hens symbolized faith, hope, and love – the
three great virtues we should display as we come to know
Christ as Lord and read the Old and New Testaments.

The other symbols:

• Four calling birds – the four Gospels

• Five golden rings – the first five books of the Bible, the

• 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 of Matthew 5

• Nine ladies dancing – nine choirs of angels

• Ten lords a leaping – the Ten Commandments

• Eleven pipers piping – the eleven faithful apostles

• Twelve drummers drumming – the twelve articles of the
Apostles’ Creed’

We can be thankful today that we are not forced to hide the
Gospel message in such a way, but this story does show the
creativity that one can develop when limitations are put on
someone’s faith. If you never had heard this story before
perhaps this will bring a new appreciation to the songs
history and meaning for you.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a
very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with blessings and
possibilities. Christmas reminds us that God is with us in
every aspect of life. He will never leave you or forsake you
if you make Jesus the Lord of your life.

Make it personal: Have a little fun with that song above.
Can you come up with some other meanings that could lead
people to the Biblical story like the priest above did? Share
this story with your children and grand children and see if
they can help you.

Due to Christmas and New Years being on Wednesday’s the next 

two weeks the Mid-week meditation is going to take a two week break and return on January 8.

Have a Merry Christmas,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church