It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Peppermint hot chocolate is brewing, lights are twinkling (even if Al Copeland’s house “ain’t dere no more”). Mr. Bingle is back, the scents of pine, fir and spruce are in the air (even if manufactured by a candle), and blasts of animated nostalgia glow from the television night after night. Christmastime is here!
Of course, I’m a fan of It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and The Year Without a Santa Claus (all of the Rankin-Bass nonsensical animated classics, really), but one of my all-time favorites has to be A Charlie Brown Christmas. Seeing Linus and his blanket bring Christmas back to the true story of the birth of our Savior brings me to tears every single year.
I also love Christmas music (which I hope you’re enjoying on LifeSongs!), but there’s one carol that’s always confused me. Okay, there are a few (like “Marshmallow World” – “the sun is red like a pumpkin head?!”), but the “12 Days of Christmas” is one that I have been singing along to since I can remember, yet just didn’t really “get.” Apparently, it’s an expensive gift exchange – the gifts would cost over $155,000 this year! Who would want all of those bizarre presents, anyway? What does it all mean?! Well, I’m not the only one who is confused by this one. And, just like Linus, this song is an opportunity to point back to what Christmas is all about: the Gospel!
The carol has its roots in 18th-century England, and one theory is that it actually has quite a history steeped in the Christian faith. It’s widely believed that the song contains hidden references to the Christian faith, and may have been used as far back as the 16th century as a mnemonic device to preserve and teach the principles of the church, during a time when it was unsafe to openly profess certain religious beliefs.
So, knowing that, let’s examine the possible symbolism in The Twelve Days of Christmas, shall we?
A partridge in a pear tree – This symbolizes Jesus Christ and the cross (Luke 13:34)
Two turtledoves – The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens – Faith, Hope and Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Four calling birds – The Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
Five golden rings – The first five books of the Old Testament, know as the Torah or Pentateuch
Six geese a’laying – The six days of creation
Seven swans a’swimming – The seven gifts of the Spirit (Romans 12:6-8)
Eight maids a’milking – The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10)
Nine ladies dancing – Nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23)
Ten lords a’leaping – The 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)
Eleven pipers piping – The 11 faithful disciples
Twelve drummers drumming – The 12 points in the Apostles’ Creed
And the “true love” mentioned in the song represents God the Father.
So, the next time you find yourself humming along to “a partridge in a pear tree,” be reminded of God’s true and perfect love for us, and the greatest Gift ever given.
PS – If you, like most of us, can’t afford the $155,407.18 for all 12 of those gifts, one partridge is $25 (pear tree not included). Hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?