The story behind the song:
In the 16th century, England proclaimed an official state church, and any other religions teaching was strictly forbidden. For the next three centuries, those who refused to join the state church developed creative ways to teach their children about Christ & their belief in Him. One popular method was to use lyrics and song.
Delight in discovering the secret Christian symbols concealed in the familiar carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This cheerful song, about the generous benefactor who loved to give gifts, could be freely sung without ever using God’s name, because “my true love” refers to God.
Read & discover how things are not always as they seem. See how an old familiar carol overflows with rich spiritual significance. And the next time you sing this song, notice how the repetitive pattern represents a special meaning- as the verses repeat over and over, so God’s ongoing gifts and blessings continue to flow.
Above all, be diligent, as these early Christian parents were, in showing the love of Christ in your home and teaching your children to love Jesus above all else. Show them, through your words, your actions, and your example the beauty & joy of having no other gods, than Jesus Christ.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth.” James 1:17-18
THE FIRST DAY
“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”
The original gift of Christmas is Jesus, sent to earth from God.
God so loved the world that He gave his
Only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him
Perish but have
John 3:16 (GOSPEL acronym)
The partridge was known as a valiant bird, willing to fight to the death in order to defend its young, making it an ancient Christian symbol of Christ. The pear tree represents the cross.
THE SECOND DAY
“On the second day of Christmas, my true love have to me two turtledoves.”
For hundreds of years, Jewish families used turtle doves as offerings to God. The gift of two turtledoves is a reminder of the sacrifice offered for Jesus by Mary and Joseph. When Jesus was forty days old, they took him to the temple in Jerusalem. They brought a sacrifice of two turtledoves as was required by law.
THE THIRD DAY
“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three French hens.”
French hens were valuable poultry during the sixteenth century-only the rich could afford them. These costly birds symbolized the three valuable gifts given to Jesus by the wise men; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold was the most precious of all metals. Frankincense and myrrh were expensive spices used as incense and for burials.
THE FOURTH DAY
“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four calling birds.”
The four calling birds are reminders of the four Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These writers of the first four books of the New Testament proclaimed the testimony of Jesus’ life and teachings, Like birds, calling out with loud and distinctive voices, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John spread abroad the news of Jesus; life, death, and resurrection. They called people to faith in Jesus as their Savior.
THE FIFTH DAY
“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five golden rings.”
Gold rings are among the most valuable and treasured of all gifts. The five gold rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books, known to the Jews as the Torah, were treated with great reverence and considered to be worth more than gold. In these books, Moses, the commonly accepted author, records the creation story and the beginning history of the people of Israel.
THE SIXTH DAY
“On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six geese a-laying.”
In many cultures, eggs symbolize new life. Six geese laying eggs become reminders of the six days of creation when God, by His Word, brought forth life on earth. God spoke and filled the earth with plants, birds, animals, and people during the first six days of creation, as found in chapter 1 of the book of Genesis.
THE SEVENTH DAY
“On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming.”
Seven swans symbolize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Just as baby swans grow and change from “ugly-ducklings” into beautiful and graceful birds, so do God’s children grow and change through the work of the Holy Spirit. The various gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed for the benefit of the entire body of Christ.
THE EIGHTH DAY
“On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight maids a-milking.”
The eight milking maidens represent eight unique teachings of Jesus sometimes called the Beatitudes. These words of Jesus, from the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5, nurture and strengthen us much the way milk nourishes a child.
THE NINTH DAY
“On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing.”
The nine ladies remind us of the nine different fruits that the Holy Spirit produces in the lives of God’s children. Just as these ladies dance joyfully, so can every Christian rejoice over the life changing fruit of the Holy Spirit. Gifts: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self control
THE TENTH DAY
“On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten lords a-leaping.”
Lords were men with authority to command people’s obedience. Ten lords a-leaping symbolize God’s ten basic laws, otherwise known as the Ten Commandments.
THE ELEVENTH DAY
“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping.”
Eleven pipers represent the eleven apostles who were chosen by Jesus and remained faithful to Him. (There were 12 before the betrayal of Judas). Like children joyfully following a piper, these disciples followed Jesus. They also called others to follow Him. They piped an everlasting tune of great joy-the salvation message of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
THE TWELFTH DAY
“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming”
Just as drummers beat out a loud, steady rhythm for marchers to follow, so the Apostle’s Creed sets forth the beliefs of those who call themselves Christians. The twelve drummers represent the twelve vital Christian beliefs as stated in the Apostle’s Creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right side of God the Father. He shall return to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.