Songs of Christmas…The Twelve Days of Christmas

This is part 30 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

A number of years ago I received an email. Now in the days of Facebook and other social media we don’t see these kinds of emails anymore. We still see these kinds of things, but these days we are more likely to see them on social media than get them through email (I do still have a friend or two who still send me these things for email).

The email was an interesting presentation of the story behind the Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” When I read the email I thought, “That is a really interesting take on  what is otherwise a silly Christmas carol.” Because I have been using Facebook for around ten years and haven’t forwarded emails during that time, I honestly don’t remember if I forwarded it to anyone or not. This is an approximation of what the email said:

Beginning in the sixteenth century, British Catholics were forbidden by law from practicing their faith. They were not allowed to share these ideas, to write them down or teach them to children. Both the giver and the recipient of the information were accountable and in extreme cases death was possible. As with early Christianity, this persecution forced Roman Catholic faith underground. To write information down required it to be written in code. One of the resulting documents used to teach children was “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Each of the seeming silly gifts sounds meaningless on the surface but according to the legend has deep spiritual significance.

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.

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.

It wasn’t long after receiving the email when a link floated through my inbox to Snopes.com. It quoted the email I had received a few days before, verbatim. It went on to say the email I received was completely false. At the time, I accepted it at face value.

As I was preparing for this series, I purchased several books with stories behind the Christmas carols. Three of them had the story of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” None of them agree.

Over the course of this series I have given a great deal of importance to the two books below by Ace Collins. Imagine my shock after seeing Snopes blowing up the email several years ago, to read the same story in Ace Collins book.

What it really comes down to is, nobody really knows the story of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” For me, the story of persecuted Catholics may or may not be true. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s at this point. But what that story does give to us is this, even if it did not represent these things to Roman Catholics in 16th century England, it can be representative for us some 600 years later.

I also thought I would close with this. We may not know the story behind this carol but according to the CNBC we do know that the value (in 2014 dollars) the value of the gifts my true love gave to me is $34,131. I’m pretty sure my true love took a pass on all those gifts.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_(song)

http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp

http://www.cnbc.com/2015/11/30/12-days-of-christmas-items-cost.html

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/advent/customs-and-traditions/the-history-of-the-twelve-days-of-christmas/

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

One thought on “Songs of Christmas…The Twelve Days of Christmas

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s