First Day of Christmas

One mark of the classically educated mind (well- really just the human mind!) is the desire to know. And for those of us who are idling about on this first day of Christmas, having already tucked into the morning eggs, bacon and pancakes, what better matter to ponder than those seemingly random gifts bestowed on the 12 days of Christmas?

The mind ponders and says to itself

“Mind… Now just what on earth are all those gifts in the song? Just can’t be random, or can they? No-there must be a profound meaning to each one! How could a completely random set of gifts come down to us as mere gibberish surviving from the early 18th century? No their meaning must be profound- and even if they are mere gibberish- then, by George, its time to ‘back fill’ some real meaning into them!”

Well perhaps they do mean something and perhaps not. Could it be that Hugh D. McKellar, the Canadian teacher of English, was close to the mark when he speculated – with great imagination I might add- that the hymn was really a way to teach the Catholic faith to children during the time when Catholicism was criminalized in England?

Well- as for me I am a little skeptical about these meanings- but here is a list (lifted straight from that infallible source wikipedia. )

A partridge in a pear tree Jesus
Two turtle doves The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens The three kings bearing gifts
Four calling [sic] birds The four Gospels
Five gold rings The Pentateuch,
Six geese a-laying The six days of Creation
Seven swans a-swimming Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milking The eight Beatitudes
Nine ladies dancing Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords a-leaping The Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers piping The eleven faithful Apostles
Twelve drummers drumming The twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed


About marklangley

Presently, the founding Headmaster of Our Lady of Walsingham Academy in Colorado Springs (see www., former headmaster and Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their children.
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