The Twelve Days of Christmas

This English folk song was written prior to the 19th century. Historians say the "Twelve Days" represent those between the birth of Christ (Christmas, December 25) and the coming of the Magi (Epiphany, January 6). In addition, because Catholicism was banned in England until 1829, this song was secretly used to teach catechism to young Catholics. Each gift symbolized a basic tenet of the religion. For example, the five rings refer to the first five books of the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments are represented by the "ten lords a leaping," and God is the "true love."


On the first day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me:
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me:
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me:
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me:
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me:
Five gold rings.
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Sixth: Six geese a laying
Seventh: Seven swans a swimming
Eighth: Eight maids a milking,
Ninth: Nine ladies dancing,
Tenth: Ten lords a leaping
Eleventh: 'Leven pipers piping
Twelfth: Twelve drummers drumming.

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