The Christmas season is rapidly approaching. Just the other day, I heard this song played over the radio reminding me that I don't know much about the song other than its one we sang growing up.
Apparently, the 12 days of Christmas refers to the time beginning December 25th and ending January 6th or Twelfth night historically.
Although no one is sure of its history, there are indications it dates from the 16th century but the first printed version is found in a children's book from 1780 called Mirth With-Out Mischief. Some people believe the song is french in origin but everyone agrees it is a memory for forfeits game where people paid a forfeit if they could not remember all the lyrics.
They way the game worked is a leader would state the first verse, people would repeat it. The leader would then add the next verse so people had two verses to repeat until someone made a mistake and forfeited a kiss or candy or something else. The reason it is suspected the song is french in origin is due to certain references such as a partridge in a pear tree. The partridge itself did not arrive in England from France until the 1770's.
There is also a rumor out this song has hidden meaning for Christians because it appears to have become popular when Catholics were being prosecuted but there is no solid evidence one way or the other. it is possible this concept is confused with a different song called In Those Twelve Days dating back to 1625. This song assigns religious meanings to each of the days and is performed in question and answer form.
It is also known that the version we sing today is not necessarily the same version sung decades ago. Some versions mention bears a baiting or ships a sailing while others refer to four colly birds which are known as blackbirds. Its thought the 5 golden rings actually refers to ring necked pheasant. In addition, some versions have my mother instead of my true love.
In 1909, Frederick Austin wrote down the music and lyrics while making minor changes such as colly birds to calling birds to make it easier to sing. It is the main version sung today. Check back tomorrow for a bit more information on various versions of this song.
Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear. Have a great day.