"The Twelve Days of Christmas" song has its origins in spiritual symbolism-and with a serious purpose. The song's gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of faith and belief.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
9 Ladies Dancing
5 Gold Rings
4 Calling (Colly) Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.
The song's gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of faith and belief. The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God. The "me" who receives the presents refers to everyone who believes.
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge - the protector to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings; representing love and protection of the believer.
"On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me; two turtle doves."
The two turtledoves present a picture of devotion and covenant in loving kindness. It is a sublime vision of earthly love and friendship. Two is the number of witness. One person is bringing a witness on behalf of his companion.
"On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me; three French hens."
The three French hens represent gifts of spirit in the form of the theological virtues: faith, hope and love. Faith - steadfastness in belief. Hope - expectation of and desire of receiving; refraining from despair and the capability of not giving up. Love - means an unlimited loving-kindness toward all others; charity. "And now act in accordance to faith, hope, and love; even these three: but the greatest of these is love." Love is the greatest transforming power of all life. The next time you have a choice between a loving or non-loving thought or action-choose the loving one.
"On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me; four Calling birds."
This represents spreading the word, the Four Evangelists. The four calling birds represent the four gospels which are messages of the resulting promise and hope of salvation for the faithful.
The Four Gospels:
- Gospel according to Matthew. This message is written to encourage others undergoing difficult trials; to always persevere in faith despite difficulties.
- Gospel according to Mark. This message is designed to teach a community with internal divisions and external enemies. Jesus teaches, "I am with you always, false prophets will arise; many will fall away."
- Gospel according to Luke. This message challenges believers to put their faith into practice more fully, how you use wealth and possessions for good, to follow Jesus; share with poor; accept everyone, esp. outcasts, women, enemies.
- Gospel according to John. This message proclaims the Good News of God's reconciliation of the world. Go and share the good news with the world, believe, know, remain faithful in God's loving truth, despite hostility; love one another; be in unity; serve humbly.
The five golden rings are called the Books of Law as they give the history of humanity and God's response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world. The first five books of the Bible are known as the Books of Law because they contain the laws and instruction given by God to the people; the recipients of the covenants of promise; the promise to bless the nations.
- GENESIS (The Book of Beginnings) Beginnings: Genesis not only means 'beginning', but it is the book of beginnings. The book of Genesis gives us our historical point of reference, from which all subsequent revelation proceeds. In the book of Genesis all the major themes of the Bible have their origin. It is a book of many beginnings: in it we see the beginning of the universe, of man and woman, of human sin and the fall of the race, the beginning of God's promises of salvation. It is the account of God's activity in history.
- EXODUS (The Book of Redemption) Redemption and deliverance are the prevailing themes in Exodus. This book continues the history of God's people, describes their deliverance and their development as a nation, a theocracy under God. It describes the call to lead the people out of their bondage and into the promised land. Once the people had arrived in the wilderness or desert, God gave them His righteous law and declared that they were a treasured possession to Him. This holy law, including the Ten Commandments, demonstrated God's holiness, taught them how to love God and one another, but in the process, it also demonstrated how all fall short of the holiness of God and need a way of access to God that provides forgiveness. LEVITICTICUS (The Book of Holiness) Leviticus says, "Be holy, because I am holy." The directives given in this book was to walk before God as a holy people. It was designed to teach people how to worship and walk with God and (2) how the nation was to fulfill its calling as a nation of holy men. The great theme of this book is holiness.
- NUMBERS (Wilderness Wanderings) Though Numbers gets its name from the numbering of the people, it is primarily concerned with nearly 40 years of wandering in the desert. A journey which should have only lasted eleven days became a 38-year agony of defeat simply because of the disbelief and disobedience of the people. Numbers, then, shows the consequence of failing to mix faith with the promises of God. Further, Numbers teaches us that while life does have its wilderness experiences, God's people do not have to stay in those conditions. Another important theme shown throughout the book of Numbers is found in God's continual care for his people. Over and over again, regardless of their rebellion and unbelief, He miraculously supplied their needs. He provided them with water, manna, and quail. He continued to love and forgive the people even when they complained, grumbled, and rebelled against Him.
- DEUTERONOMY (Reiteration and Reviewing) Watch yourself lest you forget. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the people were on the eve of entering the promised land. Before they did, it was necessary (lest they forget what God had done and who they were) that they be reminded about all that God had done for them and about God's holy law which was so vital to their ability to remain in the land and function as God's holy nation. As a part of this theme or purpose, the book also emphasizes the vital necessity of teaching children to love and obey God. This book ends with the renewal of God's covenant. Give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. So watch yourselves, lest you forget the promise of God, which He made with you. Your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the promise with your fathers which He swore to them.
"On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me; Six Geese A-laying."
The six geese a laying represent the six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world. Creation is performed by divine incantation: on the first day God says, "Let there be light!" and light appears. On the second day God creates an expanse (firmament) to separate the waters above (the sky) from those below (the ocean/abyss). On the third day God commands the waters below to recede and make dry land appear, and fills the earth with vegetation. God then puts lights in the sky to separate day from night to mark the seasons. On the fifth day, God creates sea creatures and birds of every kind and commands them to procreate. On the sixth day, God creates land creatures of every kind. Man and woman are created last, after the entire world is prepared for them; they are created in the image of God, and are given dominion and care over all other created things. God rests on the seventh and final day of creation as Sabbath, which he marks as holy.
"On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me; seven swans-a-swimming."
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:
- Holy Spirit: Wisdom: With the gift of wisdom, we see God at work in our lives and in the world. For the wise person, the wonders of nature, historical events, and the ups and downs of our lives take on deeper meaning. The matters of judgment about the truth, and being able to see the whole image of God. We see God and other people with dignity. Lastly being able to see God in everyone and everything everywhere. Understanding: With the gift of understanding, we comprehend how we need to live as a follower of God's love and truth. A person with understanding is not confused by all the conflicting messages in our culture about the right way to live. The gift of understanding perfects a person's speculative reason in the apprehension of truth. It is the gift whereby self-evident principles are known.
- Counsel (Right Judgment): With the gift of counsel/right judgment, we know the difference between right and wrong, and we choose to do what is right. A person with right judgment avoids sin and lives out the values. The gift of truth that allows the person to respond prudently, and happily in their belief.
- Fortitude (Courage): With the gift of fortitude/courage, we overcome our fear and are willing to take risks as a follower of God's truth. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or even physical harm and death. The gift of courage allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil, especially with regard to goods or evils that are difficult.
- Knowledge: With the gift of knowledge, we understand the meaning of God. The gift of knowledge is more than an accumulation of facts. Piety (Reverence): With the gift of reverence, sometimes called piety, we have a deep sense of respect for God. A person with reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love. Piety is the gift whereby we pay worship and duty to God.
- Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe): With the gift of fear of God we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love. This gift is described as a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a "filial fear," like a child's fear of offending his father, rather than a "servile fear," that is, a fear of punishment. Also known as knowing God is all powerful. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom because it puts our mindset in its correct location with respect to God: we are the finite, dependent creatures, and He is the infinite, all-powerful Creator.
The eight maids a-milking represent the eight beatitudes (be attitudes-each tells us something about how are attitude should be).
- "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." These are people who are humble and who do not think of themselves more highly than they ought.
- "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Many things happen to us in life that bring us grief, but God will comfort us when we turn to His love and truth.
- "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Meekness is also about humility. This is the person that knows that whatever he accomplishes is not by his own power, but by the power which God gives him.
- "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." A hungry baby will cry for milk. We also should be hungry to learn what God wants us to do, that is where we get our spiritual "food".
- "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy". The person who is merciful is kind and forgiving. This person is not hateful toward others, but looks for the good qualities in people. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God". We can be pure in heart if we fill our minds with good thoughts. We need to be careful of the things we watch, read, and hear.
- "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God". Do you encourage people to get along and to be friends? If so, you are a peacemaker. Where peace is concerned, you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Be a peacemaker.
- "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
"On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me; Nine Ladies Dancing."
The Nine Ladies Dancing represent the fruits of the spirit.
- Love. This love, has also been called agape which refers to unconditional love. Agape denotes an undefeatable benevolence and unconquerable goodwill that always seeks the highest of the other, no matter what. It is the self-giving love that gives freely without asking anything in return, and does not consider the worth of its object. Agape is more of a love by choice. It refers to the will rather than the emotion. This love is described as the unconditional love God has for the world. "Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it, it pays no attention to a suffered wrong. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything without weakening. Love never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end. Love never fails."
- Joy. Another word for joy is chara, derived from the word charis, which is the Greek word for "grace." This is important to note, for it tells us categorically that chara is produced by charis of God. This means "joy" is not a human-based happiness that comes and goes...Rather, true "joy" is divine in origin...it is a Spirit-given expression that flourishes best in hard times. Early accounts of spiritual followers were under great stress due to persecution; yet in the midst of it all, they continued to experience great joy. In fact, it implies this great joy or grace was spirit working through them.
- Peace. Peace is the result of resting in a relationship with God. Peace is a tranquility; a state of rest, that comes from seeking God, or the opposite of chaos. The word "peace" comes from the word eirene, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures. The word eirene strongly suggests the rule of order in place of chaos. "When a person is dominated by peace he has a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct himself peacefully, no matter what the conflict.
- Patience. The word denotes lenience, forbearance, fortitude, patient endurance, long-suffering. It is ability to endure persecution and ill-treatment. It describes a person who has the power to not exercise revenge but instead exercises restraint. Constancy, perseverance, continuance, bearing up, steadfastness, holding out, patient endurance. It describes the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances, not with a passive complacency, but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resists weariness and defeat. "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise."
- Kindness. Kindness is acting for the good of people regardless of what they do. Kindness is goodness in action, sweetness of disposition, gentleness in dealing with others, benevolence, kindness, affability. The word describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience. This Gift of Spirit removes abrasive qualities from the character. The word kindness is to be friendly to others. Anyone who demonstrates this quality is considered to be compassionate, considerate, sympathetic, humane, kind or gentle. Kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respect and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what. We should live "in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God."
- Goodness. The state or quality of being good. Moral excellence, virtue, kindly feeling, kindness, generosity. The best part of anything, essence of strength and character recognized in quality or conduct; goodness. "For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth."
- Faithfulness. Faithfulness is committing oneself to something or someone, for instance, to God or to one's spouse. Being faithful requires personal resolve not to wander away from commitments or promises. It's not always easy to be faithful. It takes trust in God.
- Gentleness. Gentleness is a disposition that is even-tempered, tranquil, balanced in spirit, unpretentious and that has the passions under control. The word is best translated "meekness," not as an indication of weakness, but of power and strength under control. The person who possesses this quality pardons injuries, corrects faults, and rules his own spirit well. "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."
- Self Control. Self control means having command or mastery over, or possession of, one's own behavior. "Make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love There is so much here in The Nine Fruits of the Spirit; gifts that we are given to create an amazing life over flowing, abundant, fulfilling; full of love and life.
"On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me; Ten Lords a-Leaping."
The Ten Lords a-Leaping represent the ten commandments--the ten magnificent laws of life.
- The First Commandment is about Loyalty. You shall have no other gods before Me. The Creator of the universe declares He is our God and our deliverer and asks us to demonstrate our love for Him by having no other Gods. The First Commandment is the first of a series of four that define our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Establishing, developing and maintaining that personal relationship with the true and living God is the most important commitment we can ever make. That is the primary focus of the first of the Ten Commandments; You shall have no other gods before Me. We should love, honour and respect Him so much that He alone is the supreme authority and model in our lives. He alone is God. We should allow nothing to prevent us from knowing His love and truth.
- The Second Commandments is about Worship. You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. The Second Commandment goes to the heart of our relationship with our Creator. It deals with several crucial questions. How do we perceive God? How do we explain Him to ourselves and to others? Above all, what is the proper way to worship God? The Second Commandment is a constant reminder that only we, of all created things, are made in the image of God. Only we can be transformed into the spiritual image of Christ. This Commandment protects our special relationship with our Creator, who made us in His likeness and is still moulding us into His spiritual image.
- The Third Commandment is about Reverence. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. God asks us to respect His Holy name and not to use it in vain. The Third Commandment focuses on showing respect. It addresses the way we communicate our feelings about God to others and to Him. It encompasses our attitudes, speech and behaviour. Respect is the cornerstone of good relationships. The quality of our relationship with God depends on our love and regard. It also depends on the way we express respect for Him in the presence of others. We are expected always to honour who and what He is.
- The Fourth Commandment is about Sanctification and Relationship. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. God starts off the fourth Commandment with the word "Remember". This is because He knew we would forget it. God asks that we keep it set apart for Holy purposes so we can draw nearer to Him. The Fourth Commandment to remember the Sabbath concludes the section of the Ten Commandments that specifically helps define a proper relationship with God, how we are to love, worship and relate to Him. It explains why and when we need to take special time to draw closer to our Creator. The Sabbath, the seventh day of the week was set apart by God as a time of rest and spiritual rejuvenation.
- The Fifth Commandment is about Respect for Parental authority. Honor your father and your mother. God instructs us to show love for our parents by honouring them. The Fifth Commandment introduces us to a series of Commandments that define proper relationships with other people. The fifth through to the tenth serve as the standards of conduct in areas of human behaviour that generate the most far reaching consequences on individuals, families, groups and society. Families are the building blocks of societies that build strong nations. Any individual or group, including whole nations that understand the importance of strong families reap the rewards of an improved relationship and blessings from God.
- The Sixth Commandment is about Respect for Human life. You shall not murder. God asks us to demonstrate love and not hate towards others by not murdering. We must learn to control our tempers. The Sixth Commandment reminds us that God is the giver of life and He alone has the authority to take it or to grant permission to take it. God wants us to go far beyond avoiding murder. He requires that we not maliciously harm another human being in word or deed. God desires that we treat even those who choose to hate us respectfully and do all within our power to live in peace and harmony with them. He wants us to be builders, not destroyers of good relationships. To accomplish this we must respect this wonderful gift of this precious possession, human life.
- The Seventh Commandment is about Purity in Relationships. You shall not committ adultery. God asks us to express and demonstrate our love for our partner by not committing adultery. Most of us need the support and companionship of a loving spouse. We need someone special who can share our ups and downs, triumphs and failures. No one can fill this role like a mate who shares with us a deep love and commitment. Society suffers because we have lost the vision that God had for marriage from the beginning. Marriage is not a requirement for success in pleasing God, but it is a tremendous blessing to couples who treat each other as God intended. Most people desire and need the benefits that come from a stable marriage. To return to what God intended, we must give marriage the respect it deserves.
- The Eighth Commandment is about Honesty. You shall not steal. God instructs us to show our love and respect for others by not stealing what belongs to them. The Eighth Commandment safeguards everyone's right to legitimately acquire and own property. God wants that right honoured and protected. His approach to material wealth is balanced. He wants us to prosper and enjoy physical blessings. He also expects us to show wisdom in how we use what He provides us and He does not want possessions to be our primary pursuit in life. When we see material blessings as a means to achieve more important objectives, God enjoys seeing us prosper. To Him it is important that generosity rather than greed motivate the choices we make. Because they are qualities of His own character, He asks that we, from the heart, put giving and serving ahead of lavishing possessions on ourselves.
- The Ninth Commandment is about Truthfulness. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. God says if we love others we should not deceive or lie to them. God expects truth to permeate every facet of our lives. Everything in the life of a spiritual being is anchored to truth. God wants us to commit ourselves to truth and reflect it in everything we do.
- The Tenth Commandment is about Contentment. You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's. God instructs us not to covet because it can entrap us into great unhappiness. To covet means to crave or desire, especially in excessive or improper ways. The Tenth Commandment does not tell us that all of our desires are immoral. It tells us that some desires are wrong. Coveting is an immoral longing for something that is not rightfully ours. The focus of the Tenth Commandment is that we are not to illicitly desire anything that already belongs to others. The opposite of coveting is a positive desire to help others preserve and protect their blessings from God. We should rejoice when other people are blessed. Our desire should be to contribute to the well being of others, to make our presence in their lives a blessing to them. The last of the Ten Commandments is aimed directly at the heart and mind of every human being. In prohibiting coveting, it defines not so much what we must do, but how we should think. It asks us to look deep within ourselves to see what we are on the inside.
"On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me; Eleven Pipers Piping."
The Eleven Pipers Piping represent the eleven faithful apostles.
The Eleven Pipers piping stand for the Eleven Faithful Apostles (remember one was not so faithful) who stuck with Jesus when seemingly all others had abandoned Him. They were referred to as "pipers" for they indeed were sent out to all corners to spread the Gospel of love and truth. These messengers were not the finely dressed, righteous acting scribes and pharisees. They were not among the rich rulers and popular public speakers of his day. These men were living and working in the humbler walks of life; five of which were fishermen. None of the original twelve received higher education. God often uses the most humble and meek to carry out his grand purposes. These men of humble means were chosen to live the most magnificent of all God's creation; a life filled with love, joy, grace and awe.
"On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me; Twelve Drummers Drumming."
The Twelve Drummers Drumming represents the Apostles' Creed which are declarations of belief. The creed reads as follows:
- I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.
It is belief that drives our passions. It is up to us to take the time to unearth, to dig deep and discover what our beliefs really are. With real belief we can utilize incredible laws and principles that can help bring these unearthed dreams and treasures to life. And then, declare your beliefs. Speak your beliefs. Focus on those things that you know are right and true.
My understanding of these gifts are as follows...
- Know that you are truly loved and protected by God. Expect and receive all the wonderful gifts that await you.
- Life can be a sublime vision of earthly love and friendship. Today, take a moment to remember how truly loved you are by your family and friends and the love you share in return. Take some time today to committ to loving kindness whenever possible. "And now act in accordance to faith, hope, and love; even these three: but the greatest of these is love."
- Love is the greatest transforming power of all life. The next time you have a choice between a loving or non-loving thought or action, choose the loving one. There is a message of promise and hope of salvation for the faithful. Simply allow yourself to see the goodness. Allow your self to focus on the good news; turn away from those things that are not right and good and true. Be more accepting of others, take time to help someone. Offer a helping hand or word of encouragement. See those around you that you may humble serve. Believe, love, serve.
- Love God. Love one another. Learn Forgiveness. Believe regardless of what "your wilderness" looks like. Never forget God's loving promise to lead you to your "promised land."
- Today, take a moment to really see all the good that surrounds you and to receive all the wonderful gifts that await you.
- We are created in the image of God, and are given care over all things. Accept responsibility. Take some time to see how you can make a difference. We live in a wonderful, creative, divine world. Receive all the wonderful gifts that await you. Accept and use these gifts for the good of all.
- With wisdom; see God in everything and everyone. Seek to understand, respond with right judgment, have the courage to live in the love and light of God's truth, accept the gift of knowledge, and have respect for His truth. Always be aware of the wonder and awe that appears before you.
- Humility, belief, trust, hunger for spiritual truth, forgiveness, pure of heart, peacemaker, and a steadfastness of faith...lessons in attitude. We are given the gifts to create an amazing life over flowing, abundant, fulfilling.; full of love and life.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." The magnificent laws of life tell us to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.
(Ref: Kandee G)