The Symbolic 12 Days of Christmas

Everyone has heard the traditional Christmas song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but did you know some believe the song has a deeper spiritual meaning? This has caused a little controversy as some sites seek to promote the symbolic meaning of “The 12 Days of Christmas” and some sites seek to debunk it. points out that in the 1990s, the story first started circulating that “The 12 Days of Christmas” was a secret form of catechism for persecuted Catholics in the 1600s. indicates “The 12 Days of Christmas” first appeared in England as a memory game in a book published in 1780 called “Mirth without Mischief.” However, the same site also claims there are three older versions of the song in French and another version found in Scotland, so there is some debate as to where and when the song originated.

There are many meanings attributed to the verses, and one has only to Google the song to find a plethora of legends, myths and history surrounding it. But for the purposes of this article we will look at the possible Christian symbolism. Whether a part of the true history of this song or a more recent addition to the song’s history, the symbolic Christian meaning behind the “The 12 Days of Christmas” is interesting to consider as part of the Christmas celebration.

Although I found slight variations of the symbolic meaning on different sites, this seems to be the most common and most simple presentation of how Christian meaning can be applied to “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

“My true love” in this song is God. “Me” refers to the person who is receiving the gifts. In most versions this person is a Christian believer.
The Symbolic 12 Days of Christmas
The first day of Christmas – The Partridge in the pear tree refers to Jesus Christ
The second day of Christmas – Two Turtle Doves refer to the Old and New Testaments The third day of Christmas – Three French Hens refer to faith, hope and love, the three Christian virtues from I Cor. 13The fourth day of Christmas – Four Calling Birds refer to the four gospels or the four gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and JohnThe fifth day of Christmas – Five Golden Rings refer to the first five books of the Old Testament, the TorahThe sixth day of Christmas – Six Geese A-laying refer to the six days of creation The seventh day of Christmas – Seven Swans A-swimming refer to the seven gifts of the Holy SpiritThe eighth day of Christmas – Eight Maids A-milking refer to the eight beatitudes The ninth day of Christmas – Nine Ladies Dancing refer to the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit The tenth day of Christmas – Ten Lords A-leaping refer to the ten commandments The eleventh day of Christmas – Eleven Pipers Piping refer to the eleven faithful apostles (minus Judas Iscariot)The twelfth day of Christmas – Twelve Drummers Drumming refer to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

From our 2012 archives
Also see: A I Corinthians 13 Christmas

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