From an email fwd:
There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the
world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the
partridge who won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?
Here’s one answer:
From 1558 to 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to
practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as
a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the
surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their
church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious
reality which the children could remember.
1. The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
2. Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
3. Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
4. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark,Luke &
5. The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books
of the Old Testament.
6. The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
7. Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy
Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution,
8. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
9. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy
Spirit–Love,Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness,
Gentleness, and Self-control.
10. The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
11. The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
12. The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief
in the Apostles’Creed.
So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me
and I found it interesting and enlightening. Now I know how that strange
song became a Christmas Carol…”