25 December 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the First Day of Christmas....

Merry Christmas everyone!!  Literally, there’s probably one person reading this.

Many people have the impression that The Christmas season is now over.  Au contraire mon ami!  Today is actually the First Day of Christmas.    Christmas has only just begun!  The 12 days of Christmas begins today and runs through January 5th, the eve of Epiphany.  In the Episcopal Church I grew up in, Christmas Carols weren’t sung until midnight mass on Christmas Eve. 

We all know and love (or hate) the song ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’.  I personally love it and the following video is one of my favorite versions by Straight No Chaser.
There are lots of theories out there about what the “gifts” in the song really mean.  Many believe it is a catechism song whereby 16th Century Catholics could learn and recite doctrine because they were not allowed to practice their faith publicly.  An example would be the 1 partridge stood for the one true God, 2 turtle doves as the old and new testaments, etc.

Although this is a wonderful analogy, there’s really no historical or scholarly reference to back it up.  There is however, a reference in the New Oxford Book of Carols which makes reference to the French roots of the song, but says it's based on a game that children would play on the Twelfth Night, the eve of Epiphany.  In the game, each child would have to try to remember and recite the objects that were said by a previous child.  If successful, the child would add another object to the list for the next contestant to recite.  If not, the child dropped out.  The game would continue until there was a winner.

There is also a song in the west of France known as, "La Foi de la loi,"; the sequence being: a good stuffing without bones, two breasts of veal, three joints of beef, four pigs' trotters, five legs of mutton, six partridges with cabbage, seven spitted rabbits, eight plates of salad, nine dishes for a chapter of canons, ten full casks, eleven beautiful full-breasted maidens, and twelve musketeers with their swords – sounds French doesn’t it?

Whatever the true origins of the song, we are able to enjoy it year after year.   And personally, historical reference or no, I enjoy connecting the lyrics of this song with scripture.

And should you choose to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas beginning today, here is a link for a daily devotional that I found on line. 
Come back tomorrow for the 2nd Day of Christmas!!  In the meantime, click on that video again and enjoy!

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