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Musings: Did You Know…?

18/12/2011
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“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Calvin Coolidge

Musings: Did You Know…? The true meaning of the Twelve Days of Christmas Song? (Carolers at Trafalgar Sq)

Musings: Did You Know...? Dickens book had more to do with Scrooge's transformation than singing for our supper...?


Twelve Days of Christmas

This is the time of year when we dive into holiday hymns and Christmas caroling; hearing them play in our heads over and over again. We sing along without thinking of their origins. The Twelve Days of Christmas carol has always puzzled me because of all the quirky gifts our “true love” supposedly gives us… Then, as I researched it, I found out that the “Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning Christmas Day (25 December). This period is also known as Christmastide and Twelvetide. The Twelfth Night of Christmas is always on the evening of 5 January.”  What? It starts after Christmas? What are we going to do with 12 Drummers Drumming, 11 Pipers Piping, 10 Lords-a-Leaping, 9 Ladies Dancing and more?

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?” G. K. Chesterton

Musings: Did You Know...? All that holiday caroling carries other messages?

Recently, I was discussing Christmas carols with a girlfriend. We were talking about their wonderful messages and melodies, and about how we never hear them again after the holidays, but play them ad nauseum during the holiday season. We chuckled over the Twelve Days of Christmas carol; wondering out loud what suitor in his right mind would want to gift his beloved with such atrocities eccentricities…  Lo and behold, she soon sent me some information explaining that popular old carol. Apparently, back in the dark ages old days, during the 1500s through early 1800s, Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to practice their faith in public. The Twelve Days of Christmas carol was then written as a catechism song for the young members of the church. The song held a secret: it had two interpretations or hidden meanings – one for the kids and the other for the adults. Each gift identified was a code word for a “religious reality” that the kids had learned. Oh Mon Dieu! I was raised Catholic and never ever heard of this… or the impressive history of carols. Actually, I had my own ideas about the carol.  More below. 😉

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.” Mary Ellen Chase

Musings: Did You Know...? In AD 129, a Roman Bishop introduced the first carol - Angel's Hymn

So, while we traipsed along at school recess, trying to outdo each other at how fast we could sing that song by adding new numbers and gifts to the list, and twisting the song around to suit our silly minds, the original twelve gifts held significant meaning that was sacrosanct to practitioners of the faith… Did you know that?
♥The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
♥Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
♥Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.-
♥The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
♥The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
♥The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

You did? Well, Woohoo to you but news to me. Did I say I was raised Catholic…? Hm mm.  The beauty of the gifts, listed above and below, are made more so by our understanding of the real meaning behind the symbolic words used to describe them. Who wouldn’t want such great gifts of the spirit? Obviously, I was sorely mistaken in my original interpretation of the carol… Ignorance isn’t always bliss. 😉

“Christmas is not an eternal event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.” Freya Stark

Musings: Did You Know...? St. Francis of Assisi started what became the caroling trend in 1223.

I was quite surprised, as I read down the list, that the eight maids and ten lords, always fodder for a racy joke or two, were alluding to the beatitudes and the ten commandments? I’m still blushing over those two. Good grief! Well, read the rest below and let me know what you’ve learned from other Christmas carols you love. Oh yeah, in case you wonder, the eight beatitudes are: the poor in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted…
♥Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
♥The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
♥Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
♥The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
♥The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
♥The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
I must confess that all along, I had a completely different idea about the meaning and message of this carol. Quite frankly, I thought it was a silly song created by a mad hatter… I was mistaken! Happy Holidays! 🙂  

What are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite Christmas carol? What interesting information have you gleaned about your favorites? Do you play carols during the holidays or not? Do share! Thank you. 😉

This post was inspired by a prompt from WP Daily Post: Why is it hard to admit to a mistake?

Positive Motivation Tip: There is always room to learn new things; especially during the holidays. Keep an open mind.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos Trafalgar Sq CarolersA Christmas Carol, Christmas Tree, Youth Choir, Adoration, via Wikipedia or via Flickr

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

17 Comments leave one →
  1. 18/12/2011 9:49 pm

    I have never heard this before, Elizabeth. Fascinating! I will never hear the song again and just pass over the lyrics. Thank you for this post. How delightful. Debra

    • 18/12/2011 10:16 pm

      Neither have I! TY! I was quite surprised to read about it… nicely so! Who knew? Happy Holidays! 🙂

  2. 18/12/2011 10:32 pm

    Very interesting research you’ve been doing. Thanks for that. I love the melody of 12 Days of Christmas. I think it sounds very cheerful.

    • 18/12/2011 10:35 pm

      Same here… It’s one of those catchy tunes that stick in your head and never seem to go away… Until sometime in January! 😆 Happy Holidays! TY! 🙂

  3. 18/12/2011 11:02 pm

    ♥The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
    ♥Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
    ♥Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.-
    ♥The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
    ♥The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
    ♥The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

    I learned something new today..and yes I was raised Catholic. Very interesting information. You always brighten up my day. Now I can share this with everyone I know. Thanks Eliz. ♥ Jackie

    • 18/12/2011 11:50 pm

      Hi Jackie,
      Thank you for your feedback… I learned something new too… I kept wondering why the nuns didn’t tell us. I loved catechism in school so I can’t be accused of not paying attention. Happy Holidays! 🙂

  4. 19/12/2011 8:05 am

    Who knew?!! Thanks for the gift of knowledge this Christmas. 🙂

  5. 19/12/2011 8:56 am

    Wow! This is definitely getting shared. Who knew?? As always I am amazed by your research.
    Thanks Elizabeth!
    b

  6. 19/12/2011 11:20 am

    Great information! In New Orleans it seems that we celebrate Twelfth Night on January 6, which is the Feast of the Epiphany. I found an interesting article about how some celebrate it on Jan 5 and some on Jan 6, depending on whether you count forward from Christmas Eve or Christmas Night. Fascinating! Thanks for all of your images and research! 🙂

  7. 19/12/2011 1:16 pm

    I attended a Catholic school and didn’t know this! Thank you. Why didn’t they talk about this in Religion Class? It would have been an interesting topic to broach at Christmas.

  8. 19/12/2011 3:01 pm

    Many nursery rhymes also have hidden (and sometimes gruesome) meanings . . . Mary, Mary, quite contrary, is about “bloody Mary” and tools of torture. Acki!

  9. 19/12/2011 6:11 pm

    thanks for sharing the meaning behind the lyrics…and Oh my what Nancy said about nursery rhymes…sometimes ignorance is bliss. LOL!

    Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Calvin Coolidge

  10. 20/12/2011 3:39 am

    “Christmas is not a time
    nor a season,
    but a state of mind.”

    Calvin Coolidge

  11. 20/12/2011 4:00 am

    A lovely, Christmassy post 🙂

  12. 20/12/2011 6:43 pm

    I like the first quote, Christmas is a state of mind.
    I’m watching the frenzy that’s happening here as we prepare for Christmas. People decorate the house, make sure the grass is cut, whitewash the trunks of trees, stones, etc., some put up lights. I wonder why this couldn’t be done every day, why wait just for Christmas?
    My aunt sent me that email a few days ago. Unfortunately, it’s an urban myth. Read more about it here — http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp

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