An­cient ori­gins of a beloved carol

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

Many works of fic­tion in satire and verse have had po­lit­i­cal or re­li­gious themes at­trib­uted to them through the ages.

The Twelve Days of Christ­mas, that won­der­ful, lyri­cal Christ­mas song, can be traced to ei­ther pa­gan or Catholic ori­gins.

As late as the 18th Cen- tury sev­eral rit­u­als were as­so­ci­ated with the tune.

One in­cluded trea­cly sweet sub­stances burst­ing from baked ap­ples around a pear tree. An­other fer­til­ity rite in folk­lore was maidens walking back­wards three times around a pear tree.

It is now thought that The Twelve Days of Christ­mas orig­i­nated from France, sim­ply be­cause par­tridges were in­tro­duced to Eng­land from France and the verse was known there.

How­ever, some be­lieve it is a coded form of the Catholic cat­e­chism.

For 14 years, Pu­ri­tan rule un­der Cromwell dis­dained Christ­mas; Cromwell per­se­cuted Catholics in Eng­land and Ire­land, but the faith was passed down to chil­dren by their par­ents in this pe­riod, per­haps coded in ‘‘harm­less’’ songs.

The re­li­gious in­ter­pre­ta­tion is:

1. Par­tridge in a pear tree – the one Christ.

2. Two tur­tle doves – two Tes­ta­ments Old and New.

3. Three French hens – three the­o­log­i­cal virtues: faith, hope and char­ity.

4. Four Colly birds – the four Gospels and the four Evan­ge­lists.

5. Five golden rings – first five Books of the Old Tes­ta­ment.

6. Six Geese a-lay­ing – six days of cre­ation.

7. Seven Swans a- swim­ming – the seven Sacra­ments.

8. Eight Maids a-milk­ing – the eight Beat­i­tudes.

9. Nine Ladies danc­ing – the Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.

10. Ten Lords a-leap­ing – the Ten Com­mand­ments.

11. Eleven Pipers pip­ing – the 11 faith­ful apos­tles.

12. Twelve Drum­mers drum­ming – twelve points creed doc­trine.

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