The Celebration is Not Over

Wendy Lawton

 Blogger: Wendy Lawton

I’ve always loved the old English carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, partly because I was born during the twelve days of Christmas. (Think: Goose.) I was also married on the Seven Swans Day. Christmas marks the first day and the twelve days end on the Twelfth Night or the day before Epiphany. Many have said that the old Christmas song has a deeper meaning— that it’s a mnemonic.[1] I find this fascinating. The counting song is said to help teach the tenets of Christianity. Others have refuted this and suggested that the song was just part of a Christmas game. Or perhaps the idea of a deeper meaning came from the ancient song, The Dial.  You decide.

Here is the spiritual meaning often attributed to the song:

December 25th A Partridge in a Pear Tree— The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . ..” (Luke 13:34)

December 26th Two Turtle Doves— The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God’s self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.

December 27th Three French Hens— Faith, Hope and Love.

December 28th Four Calling Birds— The Four Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke, and 4) John, which proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.

December 29th Five Gold Rings— The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch:  1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity’s sinful failure and God’s response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.

December 30th Six Geese A-laying — The six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).

December 31st Seven Swans A-swimming— The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

January 1st Eight Maids A-milking— The eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)

January 2nd Nine Ladies Dancing— The nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control.  (Galatians 5:22)

January 3rd Ten Lords A-leaping— The ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God’s name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)

January 4th Eleven Pipers Piping— The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James.  (Luke 6:14-16).  The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.

January 5th Twelve Drummers Drumming— The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.

So, see. . . Christmas is not over. There’s plenty of time to keep celebrating. Do you have any special plans for celebrating in the days leading up to Twelfth Night or the next day, Epiphany? What will you be doing?

[1] A mnemonic (RpE: /nəˈmɒnᵻk/, AmE: /nɛˈmɑːnɪk/ the first “m” is silent) device, or memory device is any learning technique that aids information retention in the human memory.

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  1. Wendy, this is just SO COOL!
    * My calendar is pretty much full with survival (having a spot of bother with a lung infection that would like to call itself ‘pneumonia’; I’m not having THAT), but I’ll be enjoying reading about what others will be doing.
    * My own birthday seems to be associated with geese…rather nice for someone who always aspired to the freedom of flight (and whose house is still littered with aeroplane parts…thank you, Barbara, for your patience).

    • I was so out of it that I completely missed that we share the same birthday, Wendy. We hope the day brings you love, laughter, and joy, and that the coming year is filled with blessings.

      • Happy birthday, Andrew and Wendy! What a special blessing. Andrew, I am praying the “spot of lung infection” heals quickly. Rest up and know you are prayed for.

      • Crystal, thanks so much. I do appreciate the prayers, and they’re needed, because this is one of those “UH, oh!” things that makes one’s knees unsteady. You’re not supposed to be frightened at Christmas…but I am.

      • Sending hugs and daily prayers. It is okay to be afraid, but don’t forget to confess them to Jesus and accept His peace when He extends it. I am notorious for exchanging His offered peace for worry. You are an inspiration, Andrew, but I am so sorry that this is the path you must walk.

  2. J.D. Rempel says:

    Incredibly interesting! And you share the same birthday as my sister.

  3. Blessings on your coming birthday, Wendy. A birthday that celebrates the creation and an anniversary that celebrates the Spirit–your life is a testimony!

  4. Angie Arndt says:

    How cool is that! I’ve never heard that before, I just thought it was some bizarre Old English poem put to music. Now the Twelve Days of Christmas means so much more to me.

    Thank you!

  5. Carol Ashby says:

    For those of us who didn’t get all the cards out before December 25, there is still time as long as you include the explanation that Christmas isn’t just a single day but a 12-day season. Not that I ever need the extra time….

  6. When I taught in a private school we did our Christmas program based on teaching the meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas Song. It made me smile and reminisce. Thank you, Wendy, for that gift.

    This has been a very different Christmas for our family. My mom is on the other side of the country spending time with my dying Grandma. While she hasn’t passed yet like we thought, it is doubtful she will make it much longer. For us here, my entire household has been sick. We slept more than we were awake, we missed services, and had to cancel celebrations with others. So for me, the twelve days of Christmas are an extension of a season we missed. Although to be honest, Christmas generally lasts until February in our house. 🙂 Christmas for me is about worship so I am going to be more mindful of worship these next few days. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and you get to spend more time with family, friends, and Jesus.

  7. Fascinating. Lots of meaning compressed into a fun song. That’s cool. Thank you.

  8. I’ve always loved this explanation of the song. It makes it so much more meaningful–true or not. Since this is a season to focus on Christ, this is a good Sunday school lesson after Christmas.

  9. Happy upcoming birthday, Wendy. And Andrew, too. I love this song. It’s special, but it has fun memories for me, too. Our family would sing it at our Christmas gathering, and everyone would have a different day. We’d get pretty tickled at the “5 golden rings” part. We usually start celebrating Christmas early, putting up the tree at Thanksgiving, and end right after the new year. But this year, I might be giving Mickey & Minnie a hug during the 12 days. 🙂