The Story Behind the Twelve Days of Christmas

We at HCN are craving onion rings right now.  Image courtesy of Google.
We at HCN are craving onion rings right now. Image courtesy of Google.

Twelve Days of Christmas

Since the mid 1990’s the song Twelve Days of Christmas has been a coded reference to things common with Christianity.  Many people in Europe and North America like the song and it is cleverly sung during holiday parties.  In reality, the song references gifts that are quite expensive and almost impossible to obtain.  This story teller likes the verse mentioning “Five Gold Rings” because it can really be belted out.

During Seventeenth Century England it was forbidden to practice the Catholic faith in England.  Vestiges of this practice were seen up until recently in the split Irish Republic.  The song was coded to teach children the precepts of Christianity.  While this is a nice explanation the key flaw in this theory is that the differences between the Anglican and Catholic churches were largely differences in emphasis and form which were extrinsic to scripture. Although Catholics and Anglicans used different English translations of the Bible (Douai-Reims and the King James version, respectively), all of the religious tenets supposedly preserved by the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (with the possible exception of the number of sacraments) were shared by Catholics and Anglicans alike: Both groups’ Bibles included the Old and New Testaments, both contained the five books that form the Pentateuch, both had the Four Gospels, both included God’s creation of the universe in six days as described in Genesis, and both enumerated the Ten Commandments.

A Catholic might need to be wary of being caught with a Douai-Reims Bible, but there was absolutely no reason why any Catholic would have to hide his knowledge of any of the concepts supposedly symbolized in “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” because these were basic articles of faith common to all denominations of Christianity. None of these items would distinguish a Catholic from a Protestant, and therefore none of them needed to be “secretly” encoded into song lest their mention betray one as a Catholic.

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