You're all familiar with the Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." To most it's a delightful nonsense rhyme set to music. But it had a quite serious purpose when it was written. During the period of 1558 to 1829, Parliament had finally emancipated Catholics in England, and they were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law - private OR public. It was a crime to BE a Catholic. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith. It was a secret memory aid ~ for to be caught with anything in *writing* indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could lead to imprisonment or even worse ~ they could be hung (shortened by a head as they called it).
The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! (Luke 13:34).
The other symbols stand for the following:
2 Turtle Doves ~ The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens ~ Faith, Hope and Charity, the three virtues
4 Calling Birds ~ The Four Gospels
5 Golden Rings ~ The first Five Books of the Old Testament
6 Geese A-laying ~ The six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming ~ The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
8 Maids A-milking ~ The eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing ~ The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping ~ The Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping ~ The eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming ~ The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
So there you have it. True or not ~ I don't know ~ but an interesting read nonetheless. Merry Christmas