Friday, January 20, 2006

12 Days

I am a month late in getting this one up, but wanted to have it here for reference. This song has never been necessarily a "favorite" of mine, yet when you learn the history and meaning behind it you want to commit it to heart. Of course I never have quite lived down performing this song in the 3rd grade during our school's Christmas concert in Artesian, South Dakota. There were 36 kids in my class, and our music teacher thought it would be hilarious if we divided the class into twelve groups of three kids each, and had those kids stand up when it was their turn to sing their verse. For instance, I was one of three "Seven Swans a-swimming". We sat in the bleachers in four rows and in numerical order of our days, and as you can imagine a massive "stand up and sit down" session occurred during the endless duration of that song. The audience roared their approval; we kids merely giggled and tried not to pass out from all the sudden standing and sitting. By the time we got to the twelfth day, those poor kids in the front row were totally wiped out!

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in 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 love.

The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

The 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.

The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.


At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bunk! Per urban legend bunk...

1) None of the alleged catechism is uniquely Catholic. The lack of any distinctly Catholic cathechism makes this look more like the teaching of anabaptist Puritans.

2) There was no cathechetical difference between Catholics and the Church of England at the time. The English church had priests, statues, Mary, purgatory, mass, the eucharist and more.

3) The song has not been taught as catechism to Catholic children at least not in the last century.

Someone included just enough history to make the myth sound plausible.

Jingle Bells, on the other hand, IS a very cleverly diguised cathechism in that the river represents baptism, while the woods represent...

At 8:14 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Whether or not the teaching was Catholic or not, the lyrics DO serve as a nice reminder of certain historical and biblical facts or events. But you truly seem to be hung up on the use of the word Catholic, so I have a few questions for you:

1. Do you consider Catholics to be Christian?

2. Are you aware that there were actually differences between the two churches in England and still are? That Henry VIII set himself up as the head of the church of England, thus no apostolic continuation and that even today, the Queen of England is the head of the church?

3. Are you aware of the persecution of Catholics, especially priests and religious, in England at this time? That neighbors turned in neighbors who were Catholic, and that punishment was being drawn and quartered prior to execution? That priests snuck across the countryside to have Mass, perform baptisms and weddings, and hear the confessions of the faithful at night? That a hollowed out section of the wall, well hidden, was referred to a "priest hole" as the priest would be stashed away for his own safety should a search party looking for him came to the door?

3. Are you aware that there is history outside of "within the last century?"

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Jeff Miller said...

He was quoting from the snoopes urban legends reference since this is truly an urban legend.

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks Jeff, for setting me straight. I usually will not post a forwarded email such as this but it was late the other night and I wasn't as thorough as I try to be before posting. One of the hazards of being a project manager by trade and currently deep within a large on such as I am as well as rewiring and renovating my basement is that I tend not to post as much, be as careful, OR get to visit one of my favorite blogs on the net. :) I'll try to swing by yours this week and see what I've missed.

And that ain't no bunk!


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