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By CarolynCHolland(9,534) CarolynCHolland

Posted Saturday, December 22, 2007
View All Blog Posts submitted by CarolynCHolland

The 2007 writeup on the 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS is located at www.beanerywriters.wordpress.com, (search through Google) Volume 2 of the BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE. It will be posted by December 23, 2007.

---written by Carolyn C. Holland

One of my complaints about Christmas is it’s secularization, its evolution into a “holiday" to outdo gift-giving, overdo partying and optimize marketing, all hoopla that takes Christ out of Christmas.
I attend church to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas, Christ’s birthday. But secularization seems to be creeping into the church too. We’ve just sung a nonsense song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Certainly Monte (then pastor of the church) should have had better sense than to insert music celebrating extravagant gift giving in the middle of this post-Christmas service. After all, the most recent calculation I have on the costs of the gifts heralded in that music is in the tens of thousands of dollars.
This popular holiday song belongs in the secular world.
Or does it?
In 1995, after a destructive fire December 18, our church was wrapped in yellow tape that forbade entry into the sanctuary. I thought about how it would be if this were how all churches were. What would happen if there a law existed forbidding us to practice our faith?
This was the situation with the 16th century Catholic Church in England. It was a time of religious wars, a time when the only legal English church was the state church. How could faithful Catholics teach their children the basic tenets of the faith when teaching it was forbidden?
On the Christian calendar, the Christmas season actually continues for twelve days. It begins Christmas night and ends when the three Wise Men (Magi) arrive to present gifts to Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). In some cultures Dec. 25 is celebrated as Christmas but Jan. 6 is the day for giving gifts. Other cultures traditionally give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Some creative English Catholics reworded a popular love song into a silly counting song with hidden references to the true meaning of Christmas. The song was sufficiently nonsensical that it didnn’t raise the suspicions of the non-Catholics surrounding them, but it would teach their children basic church doctrine.
That song was the Twelve Days of Christmas. Today Christians and non-Christians alike sing it not knowing its true meaning.
The introduction to the verses, “my true love gave to me," begins the symbolic meaning of the silly ditty.
The “true love" mentioned is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The “me" receiving the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian faith.
On the first day of Christmas …the first day of the Christmas celebration is counted from Christmas night.
Each “gift" represents an aspect of the Christian faith that was important for children to learn.
The partridge is a hidden reference to Christ. A mother partridge will protect her defenseless chicks by feigning injury to decoy predators away from her nest. She literally risks her life for her children. Isn’t this what Christ came to do? He said, “I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10: 14-15)
The pear tree symbolizes the cross, on which Christ was crucified.
Two turtle doves…this gift has two meanings. First, it stood for the two Biblical testaments, the Old and the New, which together bear witness to God’s self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the story of God to the world.
The verse also reminds us of the two turtle doves offered at Jesus’ dedication in the temple when he was twelve (Lev. 12:8; Luke 2:24). All the temple sacrifices are symbolic of the one sacrifice Christ made by giving his life as a just payment for the sins of all (Heb. 10:1-10).
Three French hens…are symbolic of three teachings. French hens were very expensive during the 16th century, and are thus symbolic of the three costly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh given by the wise men (Matt. 2:10-11)
The hens also depicted the value of the three Christ virtues, faith, hope and charity (sacrificial love) (1 Cor. 13:13). Some forms of the song use the French Hens to symbolize the three persons of the trinity.
Four calling birds…stand for the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ. (John 20:30-31)
Five golden rings…signify what is known variously as the “Torah," the “law of Moses," or the “Pentateuch." These first five books of the Bible give the history of humanity’s sinful failure and God’s response of grace in the creation of a people to be the light to the world. (Luke 24:25-27)
Six geese a-laying…Eggs, the almost universal symbol of new life, stand for the six days of creation that confess God as creator and sustainer of the world. ((Gen 1:31-2:2)
Seven swans a swimming…represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and compassion (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-11)
Eight maids a-milking…Maids who milked the cows were the least of the servants in a home. Their job symbolized Christ’s faithfulness even to us who don’t deserve his love. (Rom. 5:1). The eight maids stand for the eight beautitudes, or blessings, listed in Matthew 5:3-10: the poor in spirit; those mourning; the meek; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful; the peacemakers; those persecuted for righteousness sake
Nine ladies dancing…remind us of the nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5::22)
Ten Lords a-leaping…Lords established the law in their own jurisdictions. The Lords stand for the Ten Commandments, which are holy and good, by which we should live, and by which we are justly condemned because of our sin. (Ex. 20:3-17; Gal 3:10-28)
Eleven pipers piping…The pipers remind us of the eleven original apostles who did not forsake the faith as Judas did in betraying Christ; apostles who preached the good news of the gospel to the whole world. (Acts 1:13; John 17:12; Matt 28:19 and Rom. 10:18-21)

Twelve drummers drumming…set the pace, reminding us of what we believe by symbolizing the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s creed, one of the earliest “confessions" of faith that summarize the basic teachings of Biblical Christian faith. Orthodox confessions are not meant to add to or replace scripture, but to summarize its teachings. They can be recited at will to remind us of the basics of the Christian faith. 
When my blind friend, Russ, told me in 2001 he considered the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, was a downing of Christmas, and he would never sing it, I located the information I shared with you today. Now he views the ditty in a different light, as I hope you all will.
Certainly, it is an appropriate hymn to use during the 12 days of Christmas between Dec. 25 and Epiphany.
Each year our family Christmas “card" is a handcrafted tree ornament. This began in the mid-1970s when my children were small and I wanted them to participate in Christmas at their level.
In 2001 I learned about the spiritual aspect of the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. I chose the sixth day, the swan, as my ornament theme that year. In 2006 I revisited the song, using the ten lords a-leaping. I used the faces of the four grandsons on the lord design, and painted the jackets and stockings with a green paint mixed with crushed seashells from the New England coast. The breeches were done with white paint colored with red Georgia clay.
Below, as promised in Part I, are the original words of the song.
 THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS (original version)
Originally this was a secular love song. It sounds to be by a single woman, whose "True Love", a man, sent her gifts. It was probably originally sung in the French language.
The first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
A parteridge in a pear tree.
(Now "partridge")
The second day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves
And a parteridge in a pear tree.
a parteridge in a pear tree.
The third day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Three French Hens
Two turtle doves
And a parteridge in a pear tree.
The fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Four Colly birds . . .
(Now "Calling birds", but originally "Colly birds" = black birds., "Colly" means "black as coal" in old English, as in "colliery".)
The fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Five gold rings . . .
(Originally these were pictured as "golden ring"-necked pheasants, not jewelry. All the first five gifts were birds.)
The sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying . . .
The seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Seven swans swimming . . .
Now "a-swimming"
The eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking . . .
The ninth day of Christmas my true Love sent to me
Nine drummers drumming . . .
The tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Ten pipers piping . . .
The eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eleven ladies dancing . . .
The twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Twelve lords a-leaping,
Eleven ladies dancing,
Ten pipers piping,
Nine drummers drumming,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four Colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a parteridge in a pear tree.
In modern versions, the "lords, ladies, pipers, drummers" are often switched around.
from "4000 Years of Christmas" by Earl W. Count (1948) New York: Henry Schuman
I shamelessly take much of my information directly from the web site http://www.pncchristmaspriceindex.com/pressrelease.htm. Note: it is a PRESS RELEASE site, so using it isn’t a copyright infringement.
PNC Wealth Management calculates the Christmas Price Index, an annual list of the cumulative current costs of the gifts (with the repetitions) in the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Through the years cost changes have reflected economic changes.
2006 is the 22nd year costs have been calculated by Rebekah McCahan. The project began as a way to engage clients of PNC predecessor Provident Bank during the traditionally light holiday weeks, and grew into one of PNC’s most popular and anticipated economic reports.
In keeping with inflation, the Christmas Price Index usually gets a little more expensive each year, although the true cost of Christmas has fluctuated a bit more over the years. 2006 is the most expensive year. The second most expensive year was 1994, twelve years ago. The cheapest cost of the items on the list was in 1995, when its true cost was only $51,000.
Today, the Internet makes it easier to find the items and services on the list. Shipping costs (reflecting varying fuel prices) tend to increase the cost of Internet purchases over purchasing them in a more traditional transaction.
Some items have actually decreased in price. The cost of six swans nose-dived from $7000 in 1984 to $4000 today. In the 1984 Christmas Price Index, goods were the most expensive component of the index. Today, services are a much bigger piece of the Index.
The cost of entertainment rose significantly over the last twenty years---fees for the ladies dancing and lords a leaping rose 300%.
McCahan uses various resources to determine costs of each item listed in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. The Cincinnati Zoo provides the cost of most of the birds in the song, including the partridge, the turtledoves, the French hens, the swans and the geese. PetCo, a national pet supplies chain, prices the calling birds, or canaries.
The pear tree price comes from a Waterloo Gardens, a Philadelphia nursery. Gordon’s Jewelers provides the cost of five fourteen caret gold rings, and Philadanco, a modern dance company in Philadelphia offers the price of ladies dancing. The Pennsylvania Ballet offers the price of the lords a-leaping. Prices for the musicians in the song- the drummers and pipers- are provided by a Pennsylvania musicians union.
Lastly, maids-a-milking, the only unskilled laborers in the index, reflect the minimum wage.
According to the 22nd annual survey, the cost of “The Twelve Days of Christmas" is $18,920 in 2006, a 3.1 percent increase over last year. Gift prices mirrored the U.S. government’s Consumer Price Index – a widely used measure of inflation calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The Christmas Price Index reflects trends in the broader economy," said Jeff Kleintop, chief investment strategist for PNC Wealth Management. “After years of stagnation, wages for skilled workers, including the song’s dancers and musicians, have increased as the labor market has tightened. Also, a decline in the housing market has dampened demand for luxury goods, such as gold rings."
The Partridge’s home saw the greatest increase of all the items in the index, as Pear Tree prices increased 44 percent from last year.
“Robust commercial construction is sparking landscapers’ demand for ornamental trees, such as the species of pear used in the survey," said Kleintop.
True Loves will find no increase in the cost of Partridges and most other birds this year as the cost of fuel to ship them leveled off, according to The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The exceptions were birds purchased at retail stores.
The price for Gold Rings was flat compared to last year, even though the price of the raw material—gold—rose significantly.
“A slowing residential real estate market is making people feel less wealthy this year and is dulling demand for luxury items, like Gold Rings," said Kleintop. “Investors have been buying gold as an inflation hedge and prices per ounce remain much higher than last year. This may put pressure on profit margins at retail jewelers, who have not been able to pass along the increased cost to consumers."
Below, finally, is the 2006 price list:
PNC Traditional Christmas Price Index – 2006)
Total Christmas Price Index  $18,920.59
True cost of Christmas in song $75,122.03
(If purchased on the Internet, the true cost
would be $125,767.32)
One Partridge in a Pear Tree,     $(144.99)
Partridge                                           15.00
Pear Tree                                        129.99
Two Turtle Doves                              40.00
Three French Hens                           45.00
Four Calling Birds                           479.96
Five Gold Rings                              325.00
Six Geese-a-Laying                        300.00
Seven Swans-a-Swimming          4,200.00
Eight Maids-a-Milking                       41.20
Nine Ladies Dancing                    4,759.19
Ten Lords-a-Leaping                    4,160.25
Eleven Pipers Piping                    2,124.00
Twelve Drummers Drumming      2,301.00

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Posted to ProBlogs.com on Saturday, December 22, 2007
View other posts by CarolynCHolland

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