Twelve days of Christmas

Information About Twelve days of Christmas

The origins of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" are unknown, although some believe that it came from the game that was played on the twelfth day of Christmas. This is where verses were made up by each of the players. When one of the players messed up a verse, then they had to give up a kiss or a candy. This is observed in an early printed copy of Mirth without Mischief published in 1780 in England. However, the song is thought to be much older than this printed version.

The "Twelve Days of Christmas" song is a cumulative one where the verses are all stacked on top of one another. It is a sing song type of song that provides different gifts for each day of Christmas meaning that many different variations can be sung.

I receive many emails about the usage of "Colly birds". People are correct to assert that "calling birds" is now more commonly used. Colly means black as coal in old English, so Colly birds means black birds - which is the original lyric. The word Colly is no longer used in conversational English, so this lyric has now been replaced by "calling birds".

Some people say that the song was originated by Catholics who wanted their children to learn a Christian song but because Christianity was illegal they had to do it another way. Each number is supposed to mean something biblical but there is possibility that this is all a myth.

English scholar James Orchard Halliwell printed the earliest melodic version of the song in 1842, published in 'The Nursery Rhymes of England" (1846).

Some Historical Beliefs Attached To This Song:.

  1. A Partridge in a pear tree refers to Jesus, Christ the Son of God.
  2. Turtle Doves - The Old and New Testament
  3. French Hens - Faith, Hope and Charity (the Theological Virtues)
  4. Colling birds - the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
  5. Golden Rings - The first Five Books of the Old Testament
  6. Geese A-laying - the six days of creation
  7. Swans A-swimming - the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
  8. Maids A-Milking - the eight beatitudes
  9. Lords Ladies Dancing - the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  10. Lords A - Leaping-the ten commandments
  11. Pipers Piping - the eleven faithful apostles
  12. Drummers Drumming - the twelve points of the doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

If you want to learn more about the history of the song, check out this page about The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Alternative Lyrics & Related Songs

You can sing the song in a different order

Nine ladies dancing
Ten lords a leaping
Eleven pipers piping
Twelve drummers drumming.

Fun Alternative Version

A teddy in a xmas tree
Two racing cars
Three spider men
Four party bratz
Five diamond rings
Six funky fishes
Seven stripy jumpers
Eight slinky slinkies
Nine motor bikes
Ten batman capes
Eleven cuddly kittens
Twelve fluffy bunnies.

Song Video

Listen to this song's music


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This song has been printed from the website.