The 12 days of Christmas

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By Luci Lizares

Saturday, December 21, 2013

ONE of the more popular Christmas carols is The Twelve (12) Days of Christmas. The song enumerates a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the 12 days of Christmas. It was first published in England in 1780 without music as a chant or rhyme, and is thought to be French in origin.

In this modern day, the song actually doesn’t make sense or even as gifts who would want a partridge in a pear tree? Or turtledoves or three French hens? Nonetheless, we have memorized the lines, teach it to the children and we go caroling unmindful of its meaning.

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 that reads like a conspiracy theory. In the years 1558-1829, the practice of Catholicism was outlawed so it was really written as a catechism song and the "delightful nonsense rhyme set to music…had a quite serious purpose” when it was written. Father Stockert claimed that if the song is decoded, this would instruct and 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:

* 1 partridge 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

When you look at the interpretation of Fr. Hal Stockert, it really has given more meaning to the song.

It may be less that 12 days before Christmas but receiving all these 12 gifts are truly gifts that can help us throughout our lifetime. Let us all pray that we receive these gifts this Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all!!!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 21, 2013.


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