Victorians–Twelve Days Of Christmas

The tradition of giving gifts on Christmas goes back a long way.  During the middle ages, Christmas was celebrated from Christmas Eve till the 6th of January.  These twelve days were a celebratory time with feasts and parties and giving gifts.  Hence, the popular Christmas carol, ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’ was written in 1780.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold(en) rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

This is an interesting piece of information I got from Wikipedia: In 1979, a Canadian hymnologist, Hugh D. McKellar, published an article, “How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas”, claiming that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” lyrics were intended as a catechism song to help young Catholics learn their faith, at a time when practising Catholicism was criminalized in England (1558 until 1829). McKellar offered no evidence for his claim and subsequently admitted that the purported associations were his own invention.

I found the symbolism on another site which may be of interest to some:

  1.  True love refers to God.
  2. Turtle doves refers to the old and new testament
  3. french hens refers to faith, hope and charity, the Theological Virtues
  4. Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
  5. Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”, which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.
  6. Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
  7.  Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
  8. Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
  9. Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
  10. Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
  11. Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
  12. Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

Before the Victorian age, parents believed that if they gave too many gifts or even too much affection to their children they would become spoiled.  However, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were very affectionate with their children.  Newspapers and magazines showed the royal family celebrating Christmas with their Christmas tree and gifts beneath it for the children. Before this time, children were given Christmas gifts only from their parents.  The gifts were usually hand made such as knitted scarves, socks or mittens and hand-made toys and hand-sewn clothes. Afterwards, people in both the US and England began imitating the royal family.  Soon children in both countries were receiving store-bought gifts and extra affection from their parents as more and more people had better incomes.  Shops began stocking up on a wide variety of merchandise.  Children received gifts such as dolls, doll houses, board games, rocking horses and sleds. The tradition has its roots even further back to the pagan tradition of the winter solstice celebration.  This was referred to as ‘Jul’ by Northern Europeans which is where the word yule originated from as in Yuletide.

What Can You Give As Gifts?

Perhaps, you might choose to make a hand-made gift.  Personally, I love shopping and making hand-made gifts.  Last year, our family picked names out of a bowl and whoever we picked we had to make a hand- made gift.  My husband made a magic Genie poster that answered questions for my son Brandon.  Brandon made a bath bomb for his sister Jadzia.  Jadzia made a bracelet for her sister Brianna. Brianna made me cup cakes and I…well…I got a lot of flack and was told I cheated when I made a calendar for Jim using vista print.  Maybe some of you can do better and use a bit more imagination.


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