The Catholic Defender: The Twelve Days Of Christmas Song And The Hidden Code
The Church Calendar has been a work in progress since the very beginning of the Church. From the early Christians following Our Lord's footsteps down the The Via Dolorosa (Latin for Way of Grief or Way of Suffering) to the birthday of the Lord.
As we move closer to Christmas, this year is a great reminder of the personal sacrifice I made during the Christmas Season. There was a point in time when Three out of four Christmas seasons I was deployed in Iraq. It's tough being deployed away from home for a year or more, but it becomes very difficult especially during the major holidays.
The Catholic Church instituted the 12 Days of Christmas in 567 through the Council of Tours. Ever since then nations have developed their traditions and being deployed we miss the family traditions. We do well to try and keep alive our traditions among us in a foreign land. I would use the song, "The 12 Days of Christmas" to inspire interest in the Season. For most Americans, Christmas is over after Christmas day. We have lost the understanding of the season of Christmas for the most part. I found this out simply through the song, "The 12 Days of Christmas". In fact, most thought that the 12 days of Christmas began before Christmas, that Christmas day ended the season.
The actual 12th day is January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany (the manifestation) with the Wise Men finding the Christ Child after about an 18 month journey following a star. On December 23, 2006 from Iraq, I wrote on Defenders of the Catholic Faith (DCF): Today, I was able to sing Christmas carols with Philippine women who work in our laundry department. It was kind of cool. These people are here to make money to send home. It is to such as these that Father began to go to for Holy Communion. These people have a strong faith and love the Church. Christmas must be a thing of the heart. That's where it plants itself to do good. God be with you all and Merry Christmas. I will be going to Midnight Mass here, I hope many of you can go!!! I was trying to get in the Christmas spirit and inspire others to do the same. On Christmas day, 25 December, I was reminding DCF of the 12 days of Christmas.
Each day I would ask the Catholic Board (DCF) and Soldiers I served with what the song said for each day as the days passed by. Friends would ask me about the next day and I would make them wait! What makes this song special to me is the idea that there could be hidden messages in the song for Catholics. The Church was suffering persecution in England between 1534-1829 and it is believed William Shakespeare wrote the song based in a play "Twelve Night" in code. The following is a version of what people believed about the song:
The 'partridge in a pear tree'
means there is only one God and is also symbolic of Jesus (see Luke 13:34). I have also heard that the first verse was depicting baby Jesus in the manger.
The 'two turtle doves'
are the Old and New Testaments. Though according to Zondervan's Twelve Days of Christmas the story behind a favorite Christmas song this is the 2 turtle doves sacrificed that Joseph and Mary brought when they presented Jesus at the Temple. The 'three French hens'
are the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity or the three virtues: faith, hope, and love, though according to Ace Collins' book "Stories of the Best Loved Christmas Songs", they represent the expensive gifts of the Wise Men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The 'four calling birds'
are the Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; or their Gospels. Which makes sense because they are "calling" out the story. 'Five gold rings'
are the first five books of the Bible, or the Pentateuch. The first five books of the Bible are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
'Six geese a-laying'
refer to the six days of the Creation. Day 1: The heavens, the earth, light and darkness. Day 2: Heaven Day 3: Dry land, the seas, and vegetation. Day 4: The sun, the moon and the stars. Day 5: Living creatures in the water, birds in the air. Day 6: Land animals and people. Day 7: God "rested". 'Seven swans a-swimming'
Are the seven sacraments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony." 'Eight maids a-milking'
Are the eight Beatitudes. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." 'Nine ladies dancing'
Are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.
'Ten lords a-leaping'
Are the Ten Commandments. "I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Remember to keep holy the Lord's day. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not kill.You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not covet you neighbor's goods." 'Eleven pipers piping'
The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James. (Luke 6:14-16). 'Twelve drummers drumming'
Are the twelve doctrines in the Apostles' Creed. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.