Creativity and Persecution
We have all heard the song The Twelve Days of Christmas and to most of us it probably sounds very much like nonsense. Why was this song written?
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (the sixteenth century) it was a crime to be Catholic in England privately or publicly. During this time when many were dying for their faith, how was the faith preserved? Catholics in those days had to be very creative and they often disguised Catholicism in ways they could still practice their faith without getting caught (hopefully).
The Twelve Days of Christmas
This nonsensical song about the twelve days of Christmas, was invented by a Jesuit missionary during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I to teach children the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith. It was known as a “catechism song.” The song was easy to memorize so they could not be caught with anything in writing.
So what exactly do the words in the song mean?
A Secret Code
Twelve Days of Christmas – The season of Christmas from December 26 until the Epiphany on January 6
My True Love – God the Father
Me – Every baptized person
The Partridge – Jesus
The Pear Tree – The cross of Christ
Two Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testaments
Three French Hens – The Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity); the Blessed Trinity; and the gifts of the Three Wise Men (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh)
Four Calling Birds – The Four Gospels and Evangelists of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the four Major Prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel)
Five Golden Rings – The first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and God’s eternal nature, love, and faithfulness
Six Geese A-Laying – The six days of creation
Seven Swans A-Swimming – The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; the seven sacraments; the seven Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy; the Seven deadly sins; and the seventh day of creation when God rested
Eight Maids A-Milking – The Eight Beatitudes
Nine Ladies Dancing – The nine Choirs of Angels
Ten Lords A-Leaping – The Ten Commandments
Eleven Pipers Piping – The eleven faithful Apostles (Peter, James, John, Andrew, Phillip, Jude Thaddeus, Thomas, Matthew, James, Bartholomew, and Simon)
Twelve Drummers Drumming – The twelve points of belief in the Apostles Creed; the twelve original apostles (see eleven but add Judas, the traitor); Twelve Minor Prophets of the Old Testament (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi); the Twelve Tribes of Israel; and the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit
This Christmas, when you hear the song The Twelve Days of Christmas playing, you can think of the marvelous gift of Jesus’ birth and the many blessings He showers on us every day! Remember, Christ comes to us “disguised” in the form of a baby and present in everyone around us.
Where will you find Him this Christmas?
“Who is the stranger here in our midst, looking for shelter among us? This is Christ revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.”