Thursday, 9 December 2010

The 'Twelve Days of Christmas' Carol is seditious!

The partridge - a code name for Jesus Christ

How can a beautiful and harmless carol be deemed seditious? Well, it was the case in times past when Catholics were either actively persecuted or discriminated against in Great Britain.
'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was a code for teaching the is the story and explanation:-


What do we mean when we sing ‘3 French hens’ or ‘Nine ladies dancing’?

What has it got to do with Christmas?

It dates from the period 1558 to 1829 when Catholics in England
and Wales were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone, during this era, wrote this Carol as a Catechism song to aid young Catholics in learning their faith.
The Carol has two levels of meaning; the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the Catholic Church. Each element of the Carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ

  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments

  • Three French hens stood for faith, hope and charity

  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

  • The five gold rings represent the Torah or Law; the first five books of the Old Testament

  • Six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation

  • Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of The Holy Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy

  • The eight maids a-milking were the eight Beatitudes

  • Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of The Holy Spirit; Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self control

  • Ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments

  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples

  • Twelve drummers drumming symbolised the twelve points of belief contained in the Apostles’ Creed


  1. I thought this was well-known and widely accepted.

  2. Thanks for the explanation. I had heard before that it was a kind of coded catechism aid, but have never been presented with the key.

  3. does anyone believe or doubt the covert catholic identity in shakespears plays or c.s. lewis's or tolkien.....protestantism had long arms and far reaches in the day...and if you wanted to live with the faith you had better cover up....orphans at that time did hard jail time, as did the wives of religious freedom riders , or should i say writers.