During the holiday season, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is heard everywhere from shopping malls to television commercials to church functions. But what does any of this mean? What does a song about doves, hens and geese have to do with Christmas?
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The tunes of collected versions vary. The standard tune now associated with it is derived from a arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin , who introduced the familiar prolongation of the verse "five gold rings" now often "five golden rings". There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by "my true love" on one of the twelve days of Christmas. There are many variations in the lyrics. The lyrics given here are from Frederic Austin 's publication that established the current form of the carol. On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me A partridge in a pear tree.
The 12 Days of Christmas are now most famous as a song about someone receiving lots of presents from their 'true love'. However, to get to the song there had to be the days to start with! The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages and were a time of celebration. Twelfth Night was a big time of celebration with people holding large parties. During these parties, often the roles in society were reversed with the servants being served by the rich people. This dated back to medieval and Tudor times when Twelfth Night marked the end of 'winter' which had started on 31st October with All Hallows Eve Halloween. At the start of Twelfth Night the Twelfth Night cake was eaten.