menu
Last Updated: 20th December, 2019

12 Days of Christmas

A few things you may not know about the song - and the actual 12 days of Christmas.


"The Twelve Days of Christmas", does it ring a bell? You would have probably listened to this beautiful Christmas carol as a child. But, with Christmas around the corner, the childhood memories will get refreshed again as one hears the wonderful song being played in the markets, malls, and on television. The song has been around for quite some time now, but there is still no concrete information about its origin. While several people think it originated from France, here is what we do know for certain. The English version of the song was published in the year 1780 in a children's book. If you want more information about the song, something that would truly surprise you, then just read on.

  • Some people believe that this Christmas carol goes back to the 18th century when it was sung as part of a memory and forfeit game. The players were required to memorize the previous verses and add new ones to them. The ones who failed to do so were to give a kiss or a candy to the others as forfeit.


  • In 1995, Father Hal Stockert's internet article titled "The Twelve Days of Christmas: An Underground Catechism" circulated another belief around this song. People following Father Stockert, also believe that The Twelve Days of Christmas is related to the period between 1558-1829. This was the time when Catholicism was outlawed and any person practicing the faith was meted with severe punishment such as death. It was to continue Catholicism and to help young Catholics learn the doctrines of their faith that this carol was written. For Father Stockert all the gifts in the song represented the truths of the Catholic faith like partridge in a pear tree signifying Jesus Christ, eight maids-a-milking standing for the Eight Beatitudes, etc. While this belief is widely held up by people, there are no evidences to prove its validity.


  • The "four calling birds" that are sung about these days were not always "four calling birds". The early versions of the carol have "four mockingbirds", "four canary birds" and even "colly birds".


  • Since each day in the song refers to some or the other bird, there is a possibility that the "five golden rings" are not the jewelry which is being referred to. Suggestions are made for them to be the yellow coloured rings on the neck of a pheasant or to "goldpinks" which is an old name for the Goldflinch.


  • The phrase "Twelve Days of Christmas" is not just a phrase buy symbolizes the actual twelve days celebration of the festival beginning with December 25 to January 6. The twelve days are observed with much merriment by Christians of different sects to commemorate the time from Christ's birth to the manifestation of his glory i.e. the Epiphany.

  • There are people who exchange gifts only on 25th December however, people in the Unites States exchange gifts on all of the twelve days of the festival. Feasting remains a main practice till the day of the Epiphany.


  • The traditions in the United Kingdom differ in terms of the customs. People there feast primarily with dishes like plum pudding and roasted goose on the menu. A holiday is also observed on Boxing Day in most of the Commonwealth nations.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas start on 25th DEC (Christmas Day) and ends with the eve of Epiphany on 5th January.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" song
On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 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 Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Religious symbolism of The 12 Days of Christmas song

  1. True Love refers to God

  2. Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments

  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.


The Real 12 Days of Christmas

In Christian tradition, the true 12 days of Christmas is a holy time of celebration. The period begins Christmas Day and concludes Jan. 6 with Epiphany. You can learn more about this time of celebration below.


The First Day The first day of Christmas is, Christmas Day, the Nativity of Jesus Christ.


The Second Day of Christmas On the second day of Christmas, we celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen, deacon and martyr, the first Christian to die for his faith in Christ. For that reason, he is often called the protomartyr (the first martyr).


The Third Day of Christmas The third day celebrates the life of Saint John the Evangelist, called "the disciple whom Christ loved" and the only one of the Apostles not to die a martyr's death.


The Fourth Day of Christmas The fourth day of Christmas honors the memory of the Holy Innocents, all of the young boys slaughtered at the command of King Herod when he hoped to kill the newborn Jesus.


The Fifth Day of Christmas The fifth day celebrates the faith of Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, who was martyred for his defense of the rights of the church against King Henry II.


The Sixth Day of Christmas On the sixth day, the faithful celebrate the Holy Family: the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus; Saint Joseph, his foster father; and Christ himself.


The Seventh Day of Christmas The seventh day of Christmas celebrates the life of Saint Silvester, the pope who reigned during Donatist schism and the Arian heresy.


The Eighth Day of Christmas The eighth day falls on Jan. 1, and it honors the solemnity of Mary, mother of Jesus.


The Ninth Day of Christmas On the ninth day of Christmas, the faithful celebrate two of the original Eastern Doctors of the Church: Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen.


The 10th Day of Christmas Christians worship the holy name of Jesus, at which "every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:10–11).


The 11th Day of Christmas The 11th day honors Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774–1821), or Mother Seton as she is often known, who was the first native-born American saint.


The 12th Day of Christmas On the final day of Christmas, the faithful celebrate the feast of the Epiphany.