The Twelve Days Revisited

On the First Day of Christmas my true love gave to m-
Hey, who’s this true love person, when exactly did they give me a bird in a tree and what am I supposed to do with it?

Well OK then, my bad. The twelve days start at Christmas and continue through to the 6th of January (25…26…27…) Errr, the 5th of January. I learned that according to the church calendar, Christ is born on the first day and the twelfth day is when the wise dudes finally show up. I also learned that back in the day, you were supposed to dedicate your first born son to god by taking him to the temple with a sacrifice which was traditionally two turtle doves (or two young pidgins but that doesn’t really fit in the song as nicely). So, the twelve days of Christmas are really about the whole epiphany time of the church calendar, which I never knew!

Except they are not. Christ would have to be a partridge in a pear tree, the two turtle doves would have to come on day eight (because that was the day Jesus was taken in to be dedicated – another tidbit learned) and twelve pipers or drummers would have to be the three wise dudes. And this is how things get started for me. The twelve days of Christmas does not fit into any box that I can construct with the knowledge I have now and that can be a dangerous thing.

First off, I have to decide how curious I am about this song and weigh it with the amount of effort it’s going to take to puzzle it out. Right off I know I just don’t have the background in Christian lore and symbology that I would need to figure out if there are any other religious references hiding in the days. Then again, it could be some sort of amalgamation of traditions of the time with religious overtones so there is a trip to when was the song written and what was happening at that time in history. Lastly, if it isn’t a folk tune, I would need to look up the life of the fella or lady who wrote it and see what they were about.

All that adds up to a lot of effort. I am basically a lazy creature by nature and while I would like to know what is up with the five golden rings, either religiously or socially I have to ask why. What good is it going to do me, other than staunch the current pique my curiosity is in, to know why eight maids a milking? Will it save my life? Not likely. Will it enrich the world? Hardly. Will it impress my friends? Maybe but then again it also may be the duhh news to them. I think ultimately I would just like to know because I don’t now. And there in lies the ultimate problem; one cant know everything so which do you choose to follow up on and which do you just let blow in the wind?

Leave a Reply