The 12 Days of Christmas Explained

The familiar song, The 12 days of Christmas has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning that represents tenants of the Christian Faith. There is some debate on the original meaning and intent of this song, but the lyrical symbolism remains to be a beautiful tool for exploring our faith, particularly through the season of Christmas.

My True Love: (As in, “On the __ day of Christmas my True Love gave to me …”) This is not a romantic “true love,” but the ultimate True Love — Jesus Christ

A partridge in a pear tree: This also represents Jesus.  In the first verse of the song we essentially proclaim, “On the first day of Christmas, Jesus gave us Himself.” The total, self-giving love of Christ is the first and best gift of our faith. 

Two turtle doves: the Old and New Testaments

Three French hens: the three theological virtues — faith, hope, and love.

Four calling birds: the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Five golden rings: the first five books of the Old Testament (The Pentateuch); these books describe man’s fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Savior.

Six geese a-laying: six days of creation.

Seven swans a-swimming: the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit—–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

Eight maids a-milking: the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing: the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-25. (See CCC 1832 for the full 12)

Ten lords a-leaping: the Ten Commandments.

Eleven pipers piping: the eleven faithful Apostles.

Twelve drummers drumming: the twelve points of belief in The Apostles’ Creed.

Source: The Catholic News Organization