On the First Day of Christmas....

You may already know this, but I found it interesting. There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas? Today I found out, thanks to the Internet.

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 their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
Here we go:

  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
      (O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Luke 13:34)
  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
      (All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 2 Timothy 3:16)
  • Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
      (And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13:13)
  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
  • The five golden rings were the first five books of the Old Testament.
      (The Torah or Law, called the "Pentateuch": Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These give the history of man's fall from grace and God's response.)
  • The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
      (And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Genesis 1:31 (Be sure to read all of Genesis 1) )
  • Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit:
      (Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
      "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us…" Romans 12:6)
  • The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
      Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
      Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
      Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
      Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
      Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
      Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
      Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
      Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
      Matthew 5:3-10
  • Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Gentleness, and Self Control.
      (But the fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith, Gentleness, Self Control… Galatians 5:22,23)
  • The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
    1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
    2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
    3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
    4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
    5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
    6. Thou shalt not kill.
    7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
    8. Thou shalt not steal.
    9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
    10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
      And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. Luke 6:13-16 (Judas Iscariot was not included since it was he, who betrayed Jesus.)
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
    1. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
    2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
    3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
    4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell.
    5. The third day he rose again from the dead;
    6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
    7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
    8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    9. I believe in the holy catholic* (universal) church, the communion of saints,
    10. The forgiveness of sins,
    11. The resurrection of the body,
    12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

So there is your history for today.  This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol...
So pass it on if you wish.