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  • Baptist Beacon

The 12 days of Christmas

FENTON, MI – Our Christmas traditions are as varied and unique as the communities of people who practice them. Many originate from the “Old Country” while others we share here in the good old USA are homegrown. A great deal of these traditions have come to us like common colds. We have them, but we don’t really know how or why. We just do.

Some of the songs we sing during the season would be at best nonsensical if their history were not known. Most of us don’t have a clue what “Figgy Pudding” might be (from the song We Wish You A Merry Christmas), and don’t really care.

Do you know the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" has a very profound Christian purpose? On the surface it doesn't appear to have anything at all to do with God but according to Dr. William Hunter, there's a great symbolism. "From 1558 to 1829 Roman Catholics in England were not able to practice their faith openly, so they had to find other ways to pass on their beliefs. The song The Twelve Days of Christmas is said to be one example of how they did it.

Each of the items in the song, so we are told, represents something of religious significance. The hidden meaning of each gift was designed to help young Christians learn their faith. There is some doubt to the veracity of this interpretation, but it is still very intriguing.

"The song goes; 'On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me ...

  • The true love represents God and the one who receives these presents is the follower of Christ.

  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ who died on a tree as a gift from God.

  • The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments - another gift from God.

  • The three French hens were faith, hope and love - three gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13.

  • The four calling birds were the four Gospels that sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

  • The five golden rings were the first five books of the Bible also called the Books of Moses, or the Pentateuch.

  • The six geese a-laying were the six days of creation.

  • The seven swans a swimming were the seven spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit found in the New Testament.

  • The eight maids a milking were the eight beatitudes.

  • The nine ladies dancing were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23.

  • The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.

  • The eleven pipers piping were the eleven faithful disciples.

  • The twelve drummers drumming were the twelve points of the Apostles Creed."

I encourage you to look more closely at the traditions of Christmas, to find in them the deeper meanings, and hopefully greater inspiration to make Him Lord of this Season and every season of your life. There are some traditions that have nothing to do with our Lord and His birth, but are still great family and social traditions to carry on. Now as far as Figgy Pudding is concerned I still don’t know what it is, and to be quite honest, even if I did I don’t think I would “want some.”

Merry Christmas!



Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.


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