My first memory of the Twelve Days of Christmas is kind of vague. I do recall being in the audience and watching my brother and sister on stage… dressed as some characters maybe a swan and a tree??? I told you it was vague. And in my sweet little 5 year old self I think I began trying to sing that song but most likely was stuck on the repeat “5 Golden rings….”
Throughout the years my memory has grown and now I can sometimes remember all 12 but not necessarily in the right order! It’s sort of like alphabetizing a set of files, I have to sing the ABC’s under my breath to get them in order.
While the song has a rich and long history, the part that most sticks out to me is the Christian perspective. This history indicates that the song relates to a key period in the Christian calendar.
*”The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and for nearly a month Christians await the coming of Christ in a spirit of expectation, singing hymns of longing. Then, on December 25, Christmas Day itself ushers in 12 days of celebration, ending only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany.”
Such a sacred time of year that has really been lost in our culture as we rush through Christmas and then move quickly on to the New Year. The fest of Epiphany was a day to commemorate the beginning of the proclamation of the gospel. Seems fitting to me! It is what every day between Christmases is all about – proclaiming the love of our Savior, Jesus to all the world! Living our lives to glorify Him and make him known.
A few years ago, I received one of my favorite Christmas gifts of all time – it was a set of ornaments representing the 12 days of Christmas. Each one is elaborately crafted to represent the day and on one side the traditional verse of the song is printed. But the beauty and depth is found as you turn the ornament. Each reveals a biblical equivalent/interpretation. **They are:
The “true love” represents God and the “me” who receives these presents is the Christian.
The “partridge in a pear tree” was Jesus Christ who died on a tree as a gift from God.
The “two turtle doves” were the Old and New Testaments.
The “three French hens” were faith, hope and love – the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (I Corinthians 13).
The “four calling birds” were the four Gospels which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The “five golden rings” were the first five books of the Bible also called the “Books of Moses”.
The “six geese a-laying” were the six days of creation.
The “seven swans a swimming” were the “seven gifts of the Holy Spirit”. (I Corinthians 12:8-11; Romans 12, Ephesians 4; I Peter 4:10-11).
The “eight maids a milking” were the eight beatitudes.
The “nine ladies dancing” were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22 & 23)
The “ten lords a-leaping” were the Ten Commandments.
The “eleven pipers piping” were the eleven faithful disciples.
The “twelve drummers drumming” were the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed.
So this season as you find your self belting out your favorite part of this song, I hope you experience an even deeper relationship with Jesus and that you enjoy the true reason for the season!