The True Meaning of The 12 Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas are a very important part of the holidays for most but many are confused at when it actually happens. Most believe that is occurs 12 days before Christmas but actually it happens 12 days after until the beginning of Epiphany. The counting and origin of the twelve days of Christmas is very complex and it is because of different cultures, calendars, and church traditions.

In Latin American culture January 6th is the 3 Kings Day, which is the day people usually give gifts even though Christmas is still celebrated on December 25th. In the Western Church, Epiphany is celebrated as the time Wise Men arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus. Even though the biblical narrative never said how many Magi/Wise Man visited Jesus, traditionally there are 3 because of the three gifts given. Some European and Scandinavian cultures combine the 12 days of Christmas with festivals celebrating the changing of the year by the 16th century. The Eastern Orthodox religion celebrates Christmas on January 7th and observes Epiphany on January 19th since they use a different religious calendar.

Many believe that the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a nonsense song for children but in reality it was a song, dating back to the 16th century in England, with hidden meanings and references to the Christian faith. Each of the “days” mentioned represents aspects of the Christian faith that was important for children to learn. Although some believe that version of the story others do not. They question the historical accuracy of the origin of the song and believe it is a myth of personal agendas. Some church’s historians affirm this account of as accurate while others point out historical and logical differences. In spite lack of “evidence” that the song was used to promote the Christian faith in the 16th century or that is wasn’t, that shouldn’t prevent people from using the song in celebration of Christmas. It still brings Christmas cheer and has important Christian aspects in the song.

In the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” each day in it represents important aspects of the Bible and the Christian faith. It symbolizes the meaning of Christmas and is another way Christians can celebrate the Christmas season.


On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me: a partridge in a pear tree

The partridge represents Jesus Christ.

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me: two turtle doves

Meant to represent the Old and New Testament

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me: three French hens

Three hens stand for faith, hope, and love.

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: four calling birds

Four calling birds meant to symbolize four Gospels; 1) Matthew 2) Mark 3) Luke 4) John

On the 5th of Christmas my true love gave to me: five gold rings

The first five books of the Old Testament; 1) Genesis 2) Exodus 3) Leviticus 4) Numbers 5) Deuteronomy

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: six geese a laying

Six geese stand for six days of creation.

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:  seven swans a swimming

Seven days represent 7 gifts from the Holy Spirit;  1) prophecy 2) ministry 3) teaching 4) exhortation 5) giving 6) leading 7) compassion

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: eight maids a milking

The eight Beatitudes are the eight maids;  1) Blessed are the poor in spirit. 2) those who mourn. 3) the meek 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. 5) the merciful 6) the pure in heart 7) the peacemakers 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: nine ladies dancing

The nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit; 1) love 2) joy 3) peace 4) patience 5) kindness 6) generosity 7) faithfulness 8) gentleness 9) self-control

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: ten lords a leaping

Ten lords represent the Ten Commandments.

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: eleven pipers piping

Eleven pipers symbolize the eleven faithful Apostles.

On the 12 day of Christmas my true love gave to me: twelve drummers drumming

The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed.

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