Pat’s Praise: ‘First Day of Christmas’

Published 10:35 am Friday, January 7, 2022

For many, Christmas ends with the close of December 25, Christmas Day. Not so for countless others.

My household falls within the “countless others” category wherein we celebrate Twelvetide or the Twelve Days of Christmas. That is our extended Christian season in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus. So our celebration and recognition of Jesus’ birth begins on December 25 and continues until January 6, the day of Epiphany, the day the Maji arrived, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Some call this Old Christmas or Little Christmas.

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We are familiar with the song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but are you aware of the Christian symbolism attached to it? Bear with me as I go through each day and the meanings hidden there. Giving and receiving gifts is such a fun part of Christmas, and this song truly drives home the Spirit of generosity felt during this time of year. And gift-giving is part of the Christmas story. So, let’s begin.

On the first day of Christmas, we received “A Partridge in a Pear Tree.” That symbolizes the One true God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. We welcome “Two Turtledoves” on the second day,” representing the Old and New Testaments. We are given “Three French Hens,” expressing faith, hope,
and love on the third day of Christmas.

The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are represented by the “Four Calling Birds.” What do the “Five Golden Rings” characterize? Recall The Torah (Law) laid down in the first five books of the Bible. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These are often quoted throughout the rest of the Bible, especially by Jesus. Thus, they are called golden rings as rings never end, and gold is invaluable.

“Six Geese A-Laying” is easy as it depicts the six days of creation. The authors of this song got pretty creative with their code talk. But why write a song in code? Because of the persecution of early Christians by other religions.

“Seven Swans A-Swimming?” These represent the seven gifts of the Spirit which are, according to Isaiah 11:2-3 NIV, “The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”

Matthew 5:3-10 NIV gives us that beautiful Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about our attitudes. There are eight of them that have become our Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These verses represent the “Eight Maids A-Milking.”

Now on to “Nine Ladies Dancing” and its meaning. “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 NIV. Another easy one is “Ten Lords A-Leaping,” referencing the

Ten Commandments.

Written by God on two stone tablets and then given to Moses on Mount Sinai, the record can be found in Exodus 20:2-17 and again in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

Now, read the “Four Calling Birds,” known as the Gospels. You will see twelve names of men who followed Jesus: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, another James, Simon, Thaddeus, and Judas. Later Judas betrayed them, so the eleven pipers represent the faithful men.

“Twelve Drummers Drumming” is based on the Apostles Creed, something I learned as a child.

“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 unto Pontious Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day, He arose from the dead and ascended into heaven and sitteth on the Right Hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence, he will come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, and in life everlasting.” That is sometimes viewed as our Christian Pledge of Allegiance.

Each verse of this carol ends with “And a Partridge in a Pear Tree,” reminding us that Jesus said in Matthew 24:37 NIV, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” So sing the song, decode the wording.

Celebrate His Great Coming! Merry Christmastide! The Great Epiphany has arrived!

A published author and columnist, Pat Throckmorton can be reached at