The True Meaning of “The 12 Days of Christmas”


The following article appeared in my hometown newspaper, The Daily Commercial, on Sunday, December 27, 1998, and was written by Marci Elliot, and copied here with her permission.

The real Christmas began Friday

Merry Christmas, everyone. What? It’s over, you say? It ended on Friday, Christmas Day?

No, no, no. The Christmas that ended Friday was the commercial christmas.

The Real Christmas began Friday. Today is the third day of Christmas.

People who believe in the Real Christmas understand this, of course. The rest of you have me to explain it, so hold on. Here’s my Real Christmas gift to you.

The 12 days of Christmas are the 12 days between Christmas Day, Dec. 25, the birth of Jesus, and the Epiphany, Jan. 6, the day Christians celebrate the arrival of the magi and the revelation of Christ as the light of the world.

The Christmas song, “The 12 Days of Christmas” may sound silly and contrived to many of us. But it actually had its origins in religious symbolism – and with a serious purpose.

Here’s the background: From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to worship and practice their faith openly. The song, “The 12 Days of Christmas,” was written by one of them as a kind of secret catechism they could sing in public without getting persecuted.

The song has two levels of interpretation – the surface meaning, plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the church. Each element is a code word for a religion reality.

The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus.

The two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments.

Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.

The four calling birds are the four Gospels.

The five gold rings recall the Hebrew Torah (Law), or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.

The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.

The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.

The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.

Eleven pipers piping represent the 11 faithful Apostles.

Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed.

If you think Jesus being symbolized as a partridge in a pear tree sounds blasphemous, listen to this: He is represented as a mother partridge in memory of His sadness over the fate of Jerusalem in the verse, Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so..(Luke
13: 34 and Matthew 23: 34).

The “true love” in the song refers to God Himself. The “me” receiving the gifts is every baptized person, i.e., the church.

Now you know.

So that “silly” song we sing at Christmas time has more meaning than we thought. Since the song sounded like rhyming nonsense, the persecutors never caught on.

They never knew it was a religious song used to serve as a memory aid to teach religion.

As a matter of fact, the song’s message was rather ecumenical – so Catholics could even claim to be Protestant if by some chance they were cornered by the authorities.

The point here is that Christmas has just begun. There really are 12 days of Christmas, partridges or not. So have a happy, merry, meaningful Christmas.

And may you all receive lots of real “gifts” from your real True Love.

— Author Unknown

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Considering the Bible

Scripture Musings


It's all Essential: Truth Matters! - 2 Timothy 3:16

Pure Glory

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork. Psalms 19:1

The daily addict

The daily life of an addict in recovery

The Christian Tech-Nerd

-Reviews, Advice & News For All Things Tech and Gadget Related-

Thinking Through Scripture

to help you walk with Jesus in faith, hope, and love.

A disciple's study

This is my personal collection of thoughts and writings, mainly from much smarter people than I, which challenge me in my discipleship walk. Don't rush by these thoughts, but ponder them.

Author Scott Austin Tirrell

Maker of fine handcrafted novels!


Sharing words of Support, Motivation and Compassion

In Pursuit of My First Love

Returning to the First Love

Becoming HIS Tapestry

Christian Lifestyle Blogger


Biblical postings, Talmidim- meaning students

Unshakable Hope

"All of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain." (Hebrews 12:27)

Life Hub Inspirations

Finding inspirations through the Word of God. A hub of encouraging thoughts and reflections.

Fountains of hope poetry

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.


Home of Micropoetry, Literature, art and philosophy.

Bible Daily

Hannah's daily devotional

Learning From God's Word

Prayers, Bible Readings Notes, Sermons And Theological Articles

The Eyes of My Heart

Stay true to His calling

%d bloggers like this: