The Twelve Days of Christmas – Hayling Island Section

Dec 19, 2023 | Latest News

The December meeting of Hayling Island Section (Portsmouth Branch) certainly took on a festive mood with a difference. Margaret sewed this beautiful wall hanging of the Twelve Days of Christmas and another member, Mary researched the religious meaning of each day.  It was received so well by all the members and their guests and is now hanging on the wall in the Church, with the meaning of each day beside it.  

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The 12 days of Christmas, also known as “TWELVETIDE”.  In 567 AD the Council of Tours proclaimed the 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season and established the duty of Advent fasting in preparation of the feast.  The song published in 1780 is thought to be of French origin but the standard tune that is used nowadays was composed by Frederick Austin in 1909.  Originally it was written by Catholic clerics when they used codes to disguise their teachings.

1st day A  Partridge in a Pear Tree: this represents Jesus as the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on the 1st Day of Christmas.  Christ is symbolically represented as a mother partridge, the only bird that will die to protect its young.

2nd day 2 Turtle Doves: these twin birds represent the Old and the New Testaments.  Here we find the complete story of the Christian faith and God’s plan for the world.

3rd day 3 French Hens: these birds represent faith, hope and love.  This gift harkens back to Corinthians Verse 13.

4th day 4 Calling Birds: these represent the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

5th day 5 Gold Rings: the gift of the rings represents the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch.

6th day 6 Geese a-laying: these lyrics are traced back to the first story in the Bible.  Each egg is a day in creation when God “hatched” or formed the world.

7th day 7 Swans a-swimming: these represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, compassion.

8th day 8 Maids a-milking: these represent the Beatitudes – the poor in Spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peace-makers and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.  Being a milk maid was perhaps the worst job to have in England during this period and this shows that Christ came to save all and Jesus cared as much about servants as he did about royal blood.

9th day 9 Ladies dancing: these are known as “The Fruits of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

10th day 10 Lords a-leaping: As lords were judges and in charge of the law, this represents the Ten Commandments and was fairly straightforward to Catholics.

11th day 11 Pipers piping: These represent the apostles without Judas as he betrayed Jesus and committed suicide and so eleven apostles carried out the Gospel.

12th day 12 Drummers drumming: The final gift is tied directly to the Catholic Church.  The drummers are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried;
He descended into hell;
on the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.