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The True Meaning of This Song

We came across a beautiful rationale for the Twelve Days of Christmas song. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Merry Christmas everyone!

The song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English Christmas carol. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the Church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember. To fit the number scheme, when you reach number 9, representing the Fruits of the Holy Ghost, the originator combined 6 to make 3, taking the 6 fruits that were similar: the fruit in each parenthesis is the that was not named separately. There are actually Twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost.

The "True Love" one hears in the song is not a smitten boy or girlfriend but Jesus Christ, because truly Love was born on Christmas Day. The partridge in the pear tree also represents Him because that bird is willing to sacrifice its life if necessary to protect its young by feigning injury to draw away predators.

According to Ann Ball in her book, HANDBOOK OF CATHOLIC SACRAMENTALS:

The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments

The three French hens stood for faith, hope, and love.

The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark,  Luke, and John.

The five golden rings rerepresented the first five books of the  Old Testament, which describe man's fall into sin and the great love of God in  sending a Savior.

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

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-----Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience [Forbearance], Goodness [Kindness],  Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continency [Chastity].

The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful Apostles.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of  belief in The Apostles' Creed.

Original Source: Fr. Calvin Goodwin, FSSP, Nebraska
Printed with permission from Catholic Tradition.


  1. Janet Beck December 23, 2015

    Wow….that was neat. Thank you!

  2. Glendia caines December 23, 2015

    This is truly a blessing. Thank you. Sharing.

  3. Dear Paul and Anne
    The story you have printed is pure nonsense. You should always check sources before going to print. It’s a shame that you couldn’t” do better at this beautiful time of year.

    • Paul & Ann Malkmus December 23, 2015

      Dear Jordan — Thank you for your comment. We know there is debate over the authenticity of the story. Even if not factual, in this day and age it is especially valuable that someone took biblical concepts and applied them to such a commonly sung tune. Regardless of its authenticity, anyone reading this post will have a new sense of biblical awareness when they hear the 12 Days of Christmas song again. This is absolutely a beautiful time of the year.

  4. Don Zimmerman December 23, 2015

    Thank you for sharing. I was amazed and very enlightened by the true meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas song. God bless you all and Merry CHRISTmas!

  5. Wow! This is an eye opener. I didn’t know dat the song had such meaning.I use 2 think it was a immoral song meant 2 twist the minds of children

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