Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Last Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending the Ladies Teacup Exchange, as I've mentioned before. One of my favorite parts of the evening was the interactive, animated and amusing singing of the traditional carol, Twelve Days of Christmas. If you weren't there I can't describe to you how funny it was to see Ruth Price holding her cell phone as she sang, "Four calling birds," or Delight Bristow with her hands extended over her head as though she were a pear tree, or Mary NeSmith "creatively moving" as one of the dancing ladies. And whoever told those women at table five they could sing about golden rings should be shot.

Nevertheless, in commemoration of the wonderful event, I thought I'd post some trivia about the song. Unknown to most non-liturgical, or "free" churches, the twelve days of Christmas actually has ancient Christian roots. Epiphany, January 6, is a holy day observed by the Church for centuries, traditionally believed to be the day the wise men, or Magi, presented their gifts to the Christ. Thus, for the twelve days between Christmas Day and Epiphany, it became popular to give gifts and/or celebrate in some way.

The song as we know it today has a variety of stories behind it, but my favorite is that the lyrics were a memory poem and game much like our modern, "I'm going on a picnic" game. Each person mentions something new, but must also recite all that was spoken previously by other players. Thus, if you were person #7, reciting The Twelve Days of Christmas, you had to say, "Seven swans a-swimming" and remember and recite the rest of the items stated by persons 1 through 6, as well. Not too hard, since we've put it to music, but I bet I couldn't do very well without humming the tune!

Anyway, here's a link to how much all those bagpipers, dancers, birds and stuff would cost in 2008 (to get to each item, click "next" in the bottom left corner). The grand total? You'll have to sing the whole song to find out!

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