Today marks the Feast of St. Stephen or (Boxing Day) the day after Christmas day…one of the twelve days of Christmas. For traditional Christians whose roots extend back to before the reformation times, and follow apostolic succession from St. Peter forward, and develop up through the centuries, the next twelve days are Christmastide, or Twelvetide as they are sometimes referred to and are a profession of faith in song. The “Christmas season” has now begun, and will end around Epiphany, the feast of the Three Kings…the Church is rich in heritage and symbolism of a visual church on earth….("On this rock (petra in Greek) I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." Matt 16:18)
The beautiful twelve days of Christmas chant or song that we’ve come to know speaks of this special time, an expression of Christian belief as outlined here:
1. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus.
2. The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.
3. Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.
4. The four calling birds are the four Gospels.
5. The five gold rings recall the Hebrew Torah (Law), or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.
6. The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.
7. The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
8. The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.
9. Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
10. The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
11. Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful Apostles.
12. Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed.
This chant has existed since the late 1700s, around 1780s first prints of it came to be….it was fine tuned into the song variation we know most commonly around the early 1900s. (1909 arrangement of the traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin, who first introduced the now familiar prolongation of the verse "five gold rings". Wikipedia)
May you enjoy a blessed and joyful Christmas season, may it deepen your faith life and relieve your anxiety and bring you peace, comfort and assurance in the saving power of Christ, the partridge in a pear tree.
 Apostles Creed (profession of faith - Catholic and used by many other Christian traditions of the Western world, dating back to its origins, from the Council in Milan to Pope Siricius in about 390):
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the following English translation of the Apostles' Creed. In its discussion of the Creed, the Catechism maintains the traditional division into twelve articles, the numbering of which is here added to the text.
- 1. I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
- 2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
- 3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
- 4. Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried.
- 5. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.
- 6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
- 7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
- 8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- 9. the holy catholic* Church, the communion of saints,
- 10. the forgiveness of sins,
- 11. the resurrection of the body,
- 12. and the life everlasting.
(*catholic, meaning “universal”)