“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written in sixteenth century England. At that time, anything Catholic was prohibited by law and the Faith was forced underground. There was a desperate need to encourage the faith and to instill it into the next generation. Some priests, risking their lives to minister to their flock, came up with a way to teach an outline of the Faith disguising it as a song. For those who knew no better, the song was just another holiday pleasantry. But for those who were trying to maintain their Faith, it was like the chapter titles from which teachers could organize and unfold the truths of faith.
“My true love said to me,” is God speaking to each individual person.
“A partridge in a pear tree” is Jesus Christ on the Cross.
“Two turtledoves” are the Old and New Testament.
“Three French hens” are the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
“Four calling birds” are the four gospels or the four Evangelists.
“Five golden rings” are the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.
“Six geese a-laying” are the six precepts of the Church or the six days of creation.
“Seven swans a-swimming” are the seven sacraments or the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“Eight maids a-milking” are the eight beatitudes.
“Nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels or the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
“Ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments.
“Eleven pipers piping” are the eleven apostles who pipe the faith in an unbroken tradition, Judas having left.
“Twelve lords a-leaping” are the twelve beliefs outlined in the Apostles Creed.
If someone were to ask, could you explain the theology contained in each line from the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and how it applies to your everyday life?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church will help you to find the answer. During this Year of Faith, challenge yourself to study, pray and ponder the Eternal Truth, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, born to free us from our sins.