The Religious Meaning Behind ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’

The Twelve Days of Christmas. We all know how it goes. . .a lot of different birds and such are lavished on the singer by “My true love”. But did you know who that ‘True Love’ actually is? Read on, this is so cool! (If you’d prefer to listen to the audio version of this story, scroll to the end of this article to find the podcast version below!)

The song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an old English Christmas carol. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England weren’t allowed to openly practice their faith. So someone wrote this carol during that era so they could sing publicly to the Lord without non-believers knowing.

The song on the surface held one meaning to those who heard it. But for members of the Church, there was a much deeper, hidden meaning known only to them.

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Each number in the carol stands for a different item of spiritual significance!

The “True Love” one hears in the song is not a smitten boy or girlfriend but rather, it’s Jesus Christ, because Love was truly born on Christmas Day. The partridge in the pear tree also represents Jesus, because partridges are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect its young by faking an injury to draw predators away.

Religious Meaning Behind Twelve Days of Christmas

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Here’s a rundown of the rest of the numbers in the Twelve Days Of Christmas:


  • 2 turtle doves – the Old and New Testaments
  • 3 French hens – faith, hope and love
  • 4 calling birds are the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John
  • 5 golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of …the Old Testament
  • 6 geese a-laying – six days of creation
  • 7 swans a-swimming – sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy
  • 8 maids a-milking – the eight beatitudes
  • 9 ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control
  • 10 lords a-leaping are the ten commandments
  • 11 pipers piping stand for the eleven faithful disciples
  • 12 twelve drummers drumming symbolizes the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.


Credit: CNA

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