I learned an interesting thing over the holidays this year––the meaning of the song “Twelve Days of Christmas”. According to Harvin Abrahamsson:
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote the “Twelve Days of Christmas” as a carol with two levels of meaning. On the surface, it was about jolly gifts. But each of the gifts also had a hidden meaning known only to members of the church. Each element of the carol was intended as a code to help children remember their catechism.
The days and their code meaning were: Partridge in a pear tree (Jesus Christ); Two turtle doves (Old and New Testament); Three french hens (faith, hope, and love); Four calling birds (The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); Five Golden Rings (the Torah or law, the first five books of the old testament); Six geese a-laying (the six days of creation); Seven swans a-swimming (the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit––prophesy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership, and mercy); Eight maids a-milking (the eight beatitudes); Nine ladies dancing (the nine fruits the Holy Spirit––love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control); Ten lords a-leaping (the Ten Commandments); Eleven pipers piping (the eleven faithful disciples); Twelve drummers drumming (the 12 points of belief in the Apostles Creed).
Most of us would find it unfathomable if Catholics were not allowed to practice their religion in America today. But that’s how short our memories are. Native Americans, the indigenous people of this land, were denied the freedom to practice their own spiritual traditions until 1978 ! Right now, there is a lot of talk in the media about denying muslims a wide range of religious and civil liberties. How can someone claim to be a practitioner of any faith while excluding other children of God?