And a Partridge In a Pear Tree
December 14, 2011
On the first day of Christmas...wait, you mean that isn't December 14th?
There are many stories and rumors about the truth behind the "12 Days of Christmas," but I'm here to put your facts straight. While December 14th might be twelve days before Christmas, it is not the first day of Christmas.
The Twelve Days of Christmas is a Christian tradition celebrating the twelve days between Christmas Day and Epiphany (The celebration of the Three Kings arriving at the manger). This is why in British and Commonwealth countries, they still celebrate Boxing Day (December 26th) as the first Day of Christmas.
Okay, so now we know what the twelve days are, what's the partridge and pear tree got to do with it?
Though it's been rumored to be many other things, the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is an old 18th century memory-and-forfeit game. This was a game where each person added one verse of the song, and everyone had to remember that verse and add a new one (hence why the song has so much repeating in it). If you couldn't remember it or mixed up the verses, you had to pay a forfeit, which was in the form of a kiss or candy.
The song has changed over time (the origin seven verses used to all be birds), and some things got a bit lost between the translation from the original French into English. But, it's a Christmas standard that everyone now knows, even if the days of milkmaids and lords are long past.
If you're interested in learning about the history behind some of your other favorite Christmas traditions, we have several books on the subject!
South Independence Branch