Today is Christmas day - the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Do you remember the popular song - "On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me..."? Although it may seem like a nonsense rhyme, it was originally written to convey a coded message! Appleseeds.org explains the Twelve Days of Christmas:
So this song that we sing today as a simple game was originally a teaching tool! The song begins like this:
Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829 were prohibited by law to practice their faith either in public or private. It was illegal to be Catholic until Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England in 1829.
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the basics of their faith. In short, it was a coded-message, a memory aid. Since the song sounded like rhyming nonsense, young Catholics could sing the song without fear of imprisonment. The authorities would not know that it was a religious song.
"The 12 Days of Christmas" is in a sense an allegory. Each of the items in the song represents something significant to the teachings of the Catholic faith. The hidden meaning of each gift was designed to help Catholic children learn their faith. The better acquainted one is with the Bible, the more these interpretations have significance.
The first day, of course, is Christmas itself. But the "true love" referred to is no earthly love. The song refers here to God himself, who is the "true love" of every Christian. This is the foundation of the song, on which every other verse builds.
On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.
The "partridge in a pear tree" is Christ Jesus upon the Cross. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge because she would feign injury to decoy a predator away from her nestlings. She was even willing to die for them.
The tree is the symbol of the fall of the human race through the sin of Adam and Eve. It is also the symbol of its redemption by Jesus Christ on the tree of the Cross.
Over the next 12 days of the Christmas season (ending on January 6th "The Epiphany") I'll post more information about the following verses of this song. I hope you'll find the "coded" meanings as interesting as I have! For more information, you can also check out the sources below.
Have a Blessed Christmas!
Sources: appleseeds.org and wikipedia.org.