This morning as I was brushing my daughter’s hair for school she was happily singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which mostly consisted of her singing the words “something something something” and “Mee mee mee meee mee mee” (think Beaker from the Muppets here) to the melody of the song until she busted out loudly “FIVE GOLD RINGS!!!!” Then she counted down, “Four calling birds, three something hens, two turtle dumbs…” I started laughing, “WAIT!!! Rachel, did you just say two turtle DUMBS!?” I asked. “Yes!” she looked at me with that “Duh, mom” face, like I had just asked her if the sky was blue. “It’s not two turtle DUMBS it’s two turtle DOVES!” Then came that other look, you know, the one your kid gives you when they think you are the biggest moron in the world and they know better, and she retorted, “TURTLE DOVES??!!” throwing her hands up in the air to question me. “That doesn’t even make any sense! How can turtles be doves?” She pretended to ignore this discovery of new information and went on about her song, “Two turtle dumbs…” she sang. Then with her little sweet lisp she finished it off, “…and a pahtwidge in a peah twee!!” By this time I was laughing so hard I was crying. I know, I know, it’s not nice to laugh at your children, but sometimes it just simply cannot be helped.
We have all undoubtedly heard, and many of us can dutifully recite, the lyrics of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I would wager a guess that most everyone gets a little tangled up on the “twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing…” part, then you can sort of pick it up again at the “eight maids a-milking” usually. If you ask someone where they think the song came from and what they think it means you get a wide plethora of opinions.
Most believe it’s just a lover’s song written about gifts given to woo and win a coveted heart. Last year it was said that the total cost of all the gifts in the song totaled would cost you $23,439. Quite an expensive Christmas! Not to mention, what would one do with Twelve Drummers Drumming – that would get old fast! I certainly don’t have any place to keep eight maids a-milking and their cows…I’m afraid my barn just crumbled to bits last year. Ten Lords a-leaping – well, I’ll FIND a place to keep them!
There has also been a deeper scholarly opinion written about the song. That it was written during a time in England when practicing Catholicism was a punishable crime and the song was a Catechism Song with each gift representing things such as Jesus (Partridge in a pear tree), to the twelve points of the Apostle’s Creed (twelve drummer’s drumming), and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Seven swans a-swimming).
No matter what the case it’s quite a catchy little song with renditions ranging from The Muppets to more serious singers such Burl Ives, Bing Crosby and John Denver. My very favorite version of this song was done by the group Straight No Chaser, an acapella group of guys whose talent and creativity in arranging music is as good as their vocal talent. So, please take a couple of minutes and enjoy the Twelve Days of Christmas and have a smile. C’mon you know you can’t help it when you hear this!