Another one of those songs learned in grade school, but this one has more mysterious origins and meanings. Yes, again it was for the Christmas program, only this time forgetting the words was much easier, so, well there were some really embarrassed 4th graders that day. But since the Christmas program was right before dismissal for Christmas vacation, it was over quickly.
Learning that this was that Partridges in Pear trees was not a recent invention, and than it was based on a medieval memory game was a surprise to me. Um, well I looked up that game, party games haven't changed that much.
I always thought it was written in the 1950s. Probably by someone like Alan Sherman, who wrote some very good stuff, like "Hello Muddha , Hello Faddha" and"They're coming to take me away!" Here is his version, for all of those folds who like to calculate the price in today's money of the partridges, geese and Leaping Lords, I would guess the price of this to be about $1375.00, more if the radio is still working.
And as I have been wron many times in the past, and hope to have a future where I can be wrong many more times, I was wrong. BTW I had one of those Japanese transistors radio's that was one of my gifts that year.
Researching more, (OK I like the way that sounds, so please don't correct my poor grammar...or my rich one either) I began to see a pattern; yes, perhaps even a pattern similar to "The DaVinci Code". And may-be not, as this one actually works. It's poetic and accurate and more or less based on an idea that is based on a fact. See, you knew there was a fact in there somewhere. But Snopes.com says it isn't exactly for real a Catechism, which is good because I never liked getting up early on Saturday morning and going to Catechism and never knowing any of the answers. But I digress(alot).
And what have we learned??? Well I learned why I don't like the song "The Twelve days of Christmas." So to make use all of my reading I have cut and pasted some of the more interesting stuff for my readers.
The twelve days in the song are the twelve days starting Christmas Day, or in some traditions, the day after Christmas (December 26) (Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day, as being the feast day of St. Stephen Protomartyr) to the day before Epiphany, or the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6, or the Twelfth Day). Twelfth Night is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "the evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking."
The best known English version was first printed in English in 1780 in a little book intended for children, Mirth without Mischief, as a Twelfth Night "memories-and-forfeits" game, in which a leader recited a verse, each of the players repeated the verse, the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake, with the player who erred having to pay a penalty, such as offering up a kiss or a sweet. One hundred years later, Lady Gomme, a collector of folktales and rhymes, described how it used to be played every Twelfth Day night before eating mince pies and twelfth cake.
"Twelve days of Christmas" was adapted from similar New Years' or spring French carols, of which at least three are known, all featuring a partridge, perdriz or perdriole, as the first gift. The pear tree appears only in the English version, but this could also indicate a French origin. According to Iona and Peter Opie, the red-legged (or French) partridge perches in trees more frequently than the native common (or grey) partridge and was not successfully introduced into England until about 1770. Cecil Sharp observed that "from the constancy in English, French, and Languedoc versions of the 'merry little partridge,' I suspect that 'pear-tree' is really perdrix (Old French pertriz) carried into England"; and "juniper tree" in some English versions may have been "joli perdrix," [pretty partridge]. Sharp also suggests the adjective "French" in "three French hens", probably simply means "foreign".
In the northern counties of England, the song was often called the "Ten Days of Christmas", as there were only ten gifts. It was also known in Somerset, Dorsetshire, and elsewhere in England. The kinds of gifts vary in a number of the versions, some of them becoming alliterative tongue-twisters. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was also widely popular in the United States and Canada. It is mentioned in the section on "Chain Songs" in Stith Thompson's Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (Indiana University Studies, Vol. 5, I935), p. 416.
The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Christmas Song ~~about.comEverybody knows what the Twelve Days of Christmas are, right? After all, we've been singing the Christmas song since we were old enough to talk:
On the First Day of Christmas, my true love gave to meAs the song progresses, the lucky recipient piles up gifts, each day receiving what he or she received the day before, as well as a new item—or rather items, since the generous giver pegs the quantity of his gifts to the number of the days of Christmas:
A partridge in a pear tree.
- Two turtledoves
- Three French hens
- Four collie birds (blackbirds; often mispronounced as "calling birds")
- Five golden rings
- Six geese a-laying
- Seven swans a-swimming
- Eight maids a-milking
- Nine ladies dancing
- Ten lords a-leaping
- Eleven pipers piping
- Twelve drummers drumming
The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Catholic Catechism?But wait! There's more. In 1995, Fr. Hal Stockert, a Byzantine Catholic priest from Granville, New York, published a short piece on the website of the Catholic Information Network entitled The Twelve Days of Christmas: An Underground Catechism. Father Stockert claimed that the "delightful nonsense rhyme set to music . . . had a quite serious purpose when it was written." Referring to the years 1558-1829, when the practice of Catholicism was officially outlawed in England, Father Stockert claimed to have uncovered evidence that "'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was written in England as one of the 'catechism songs' to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith." Each of the gifts, Father Stockert declared, represented one of the truths of the Catholic Faith:
There's only one problem: As David Emery, the About.com Guide to Urban Legends, explains in Is 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' an Underground Catechism Song?, Father Stockert had no evidence to back up his claims. As Father Stockert correctly notes, "to be caught with anything in *writing* indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged, or shortened by a head—or hanged, drawn and quartered," yet almost all of the points of doctrine that young Catholic children supposedly needed "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to help them memorize were shared with the Anglican Church. Moreover, there are glaring errors in Father Stockert's list: He uses the mistaken "calling birds," which matches up much more nicely with the four evangelists than the correct "collie birds" does; and the Catholic Church recognizes 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit, not nine.
- 1 patridge in a pear tree = Jesus Christ, the Son of God
- 2 turtledoves = the Old and New Testaments
- 3 French hens = the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity
- 4 calling birds = the four gospels and/or the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
- 5 golden rings = the first five books of the Old Testament
- 6 geese a-laying = the six days of creation
- 7 swans a-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and/or the seven sacraments
- 8 maids a-milking = the Eight Beatitudes
- 9 ladies dancing = the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
- 10 lords a-leaping = the Ten Commandments
- 11 pipers piping = the 11 faithful disciples (minus Judas, who betrayed Christ)
- 12 drummers drumming = the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed
For more information on why we can be sure "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was not an "underground catechism song," see David Emery's article and a similar piece (though with additional information) at Snopes.com. Called to document his claims, and finding himself unable to do so, Father Stockert himself eventually added a P.S. to his article:
P.S. It has come to our attention that this tale is made up of both fact and fiction. Hopefully it will be accepted in the spirit it was written. As an encouragement to people to keep their faith alive, when it is easy, and when any outward expressions of their faith could mean their life. Today there are still people living under similar conditions, may this tale give them courage, and determination to use any creative means at their disposal to keep their faith alive.
The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Season of FeastsDespite Father Stockert's own acknowledgment of his mistake, years later Catholics in the United States (in particular) continue to spread this urban legend every Christmas season, and well-intentioned priests and parish secretaries dutifully reprint it in their parish bulletins. While little harm (other than the perpetuation of historical misinformation) is likely to come from the "Twelve Days of Christmas" myth, it would be better to use that space in the bulletin to encourage parishioners to celebrate the real Twelve Days of Christmas—the period between Christmas Day and Epiphany, in which we celebrate some of the most important, interesting, and spiritual symbolic feasts of the entire liturgical year.
You can find a list of those feasts below, along with links to learn more about each feast
The Twelve Days of Christmas
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith - a memory aid, when to be caught with anything in *writing* indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged, or shortened by a head - or hanged, drawn and quartered, a rather peculiar and ghastly punishment I'm not aware was ever practiced anywhere else. Hanging, drawing and quartering involved hanging a person by the neck until they had almost, but not quite, suffocated to death; then the party was taken down from the gallows, and disembowelled while still alive; and while the entrails were still lying on the street, where the executioners stomped all over them, the victim was tied to four large farm horses, and literally torn into five parts - one to each limb and the remaining torso.
We recognize the following sites for their services: