On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
I love this Christmas carol! Is it one you know? There are some fantastic lyrics in there and people have loved singing them for hundreds of years. But what does it actually mean?
First, let’s take a look at the lyrics. It’s a cyclical song where each verse gets longer by adding a different day, so we’re going to skip to the last verse which has all the lyrics in it.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping
Ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five gold rings
Four calling birds, three French hens
Two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear treeTwelve Days of Christmas
It’s also great a bangin’ tune, so check it out on YouTube if you don’t know it!
So what do the lyrics mean? Actually, there is a huge amount of disagreement about whether there are secret meanings to the things that are given. Some people think that it’s tied to the months of the year.
Others think that the fact that the first five are birds is significant. There is a theory that the song was used to teach children about Catholic beliefs in England, when it was illegal to pass on those teachings. However, a few people disagree with that.
So where does that leave us? Not really sure! Sometimes you can’t find a deep meaning to a song, especially one that has been sung and changed for so long over time.
This year, when you sing this song, lose yourself in the tune and wonder what the lyrics will end up being in another hundred years!