Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Partridge In A Pear Tree

It is told that from 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were discouraged from practicing their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholic children. The words of the carol hold two levels of meaning; the surface meaning, plus a hidden meaning known only to the members of the church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree represented Jesus Christ.
-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
-Three French hens stood for faith, hope, and love.
-Four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
-Five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-Six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit - prophesy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership, and mercy.
-Eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
-Nine ladies dancing represented the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
-Ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
-Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
-Twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of the Apostles' Creed.

I am sure there are many such stories of how this carol came about, but I find this to be the one I want to believe.


  1. I never knew that! How fascinating. Thank you. and happy Christmas!

  2. Thank you for this very interesting post, I choose to believe this particular story as well. I've really enjoyed coming to visit, ther is always something beautiful to see.
    Merry Christmas!

  3. That is fascinating. Thank you for the information. I'll listen to that song with new ears next time.

  4. Oh my Goodness, Rita! This was so interesting to me... I am spititual, but do not attend church so this gives me a bright light to see.

    Thank you for sharing, and I too will now listen to this song with a more educated ear :-)

    Merry Christmas!!

  5. I had never read this story before Rita.
    It's really fascinating!

    Merry Christmas to you my sweet friend!

    ~Warmly, Melissa :)

  6. I had not heard this before - I like the thought of this being the origin of that carol. Happy Holidays!

  7. Dear Rita - this was so interesting - thank you for a little Christmas education today - it sure beats Christmas shopping! Happy Christmas & warm wishes, Susie x


I hope this made you smile. I look forward to hearing what you have to say!