The Twelve Days of Christmas

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On the first day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the second day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the third day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Twelve Drummers Drumming
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.


Most folks are familiar with this song. If you listen to the words carefully, it seems like nonsense set to rhyme and music. However, it was written with a serious purpose. It is more than just a list of twelve silly gifts. Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829 were prohibited by law to practice their faith either in public or private. It was illegal to be Catholic (at least until 1829).

The song was written as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the basics of their faith. In short, it was a memory aid. Since the song sounded like rhyming nonsense, young catholics could sing the song without fear of imprisonment. The authorities would not know that it was a religious song. Actually, the catecism to which it referred was rather ecumenical so could probably be claimed to be protestant if cornered.

Here is a complete list of the 12 symbols with their meanings:

1 Partridge in a pear tree = The One true God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch" which contain the law condemning us of our sins.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

From the Catholic Information Network, by Father Hal Stockert.

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