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Many of us were forced to memorize this song as children without understanding what it means. Most people often relate The Twelve Days of Christmas as the days preceding the festival. Actually, Christmas is a season of the Christian Year that lasts for days beginning December 25 and lasting, until January 6 the Day of Epiphany, when the church celebrates the revelation of Christ as the light of the world and recalls the journey of the Magi. It may have been used as a secret code to avoid persecution when it was previously written, stories of the Catho-Anglican shift. Each element in the carol is a code word for a religious reality.
  1. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ.
  2. The two turtle-doves are the Old and New Testaments.
  3. Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.
  4. The four calling birds are the four Gospels.
  5. The five gold rings recall the Torah (Law) the first five books of the Old Testament.
  6. The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.
  7. Seven swans a-swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.
  8. The eight maids a-milking are the eight beatitudes
  9. Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Spirit (Gal.5).
  10. The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
  11. Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  12. Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the 12 points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
It can also be used as a nursery rhyme to help children with counting numbers, and it works as a memory aid for easy memorization. According to a music historian, William Studwell, in a 2008 interview with the Religious News Service stated that the song is not originally a Catholic song as the lyrics are both secular and playful as the words are frothy and light. If you have a Nigerian variation of the rhyme write and let us know. For me, it is important to note that Christmas is in the air, and by my count, it’s eleven days to Christmas. You can also come up with a list of activities and resolutions you hope to take as you take a countdown to Christmas. Take stock of the whole year and plan to celebrate Christmas, as failure to plan for any celebration is preparation to have a stressful one.

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This article was first published on 14th December 2017


Adepeju Adenuga is a writer (considering where you are reading this, makes perfect sense). She holds a Masters Degree in Literature in English from the University of Lagos.

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