12 days of Christmas

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12 Days Of Christmas Puzzle

The Puzzle:

According to the traditional song, on the first day of Christmas (25th December), my true love sent to me:

• A partridge in a pear tree

On the second day of Christmas (26th December), my true love sent to me THREE presents:

• Two turtle doves
• A partridge in a pear tree

On the third day of Christmas (27th December and so on) my true love sent to me SIX presents:

• Three French hens
• Two turtle doves
• A partridge in a pear tree

This carries on until the the twelfth day of Christmas, when my true love sends me:

• Twelve drummers drumming
• Eleven pipers piping
• Ten lords a-leaping
• Nine ladies dancing
• Eight maids a-milking
• Seven swans a-swimming
• Six geese a-laying
• Five gold rings
• Four calling birds
• Three French hens
• Two turtle doves
• A partridge in a pear tree

After the twelve days of Christmas are over, how many presents has my true love sent me altogether?

The 12 Days of Christmas: the story behind the holiday’s most annoying carol

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It might seem unbelievable given that the «Christmas creep» now begins before Halloween, but the true Christmas season actually starts on Christmas Day itself. That’s right: December 25 marks the official start of the 12 days of Christmas, the Christian tradition that shares its name with a relentlessly stick-in-your-head Christmas carol.

Here are a few things you may not know about the song and the season.

What are the 12 days of Christmas?

The 12 days of Christmas is the period that in Christian theology marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes also called Three Kings’ Day). The four weeks preceding Christmas are collectively known as Advent, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on December 24.

Advent, explained

Some families choose to mark the 12-day period by observing the feast days of various saints (including St. Stephen on December 26) and planning daily Christmas-related activities, but for many, after December 25 things go back to business as usual.

«The 12 Days of Christmas» is also a Christmas carol in which the singer brags about all the cool gifts they received from their «true love» during the 12 days of Christmas. Each verse builds on the previous one, serving as a really effective way to annoy family members on road trips.

The lyrics to «The 12 Days of Christmas» have changed over the years

The version most people are familiar with today begins with this verse:

On the first day of Christmas,

my true love sent to me

A partridge in a pear tree.

The song then adds a gift for each day, building on the verse before it, until you’re reciting all 12 gifts together:

Day 2: two turtle doves

Day 3: three French hens

Day 4: four calling birds

Day 5: five gold rings

Day 6: six geese a-laying

Day 7: seven swans a-swimming

Day 8: eight maids a-milking

Day 9: nine ladies dancing

Day 10: 10 lords a-leaping

Day 11: 11 pipers piping

Day 12: 12 drummers drumming

The history of the carol is somewhat murky. The earliest known version first appeared in a 1780 children’s book called Mirth With-out Mischief. (A first edition of that book sold for $23,750 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2020, but you can also buy a digital copy on Amazon.) Some historians think the song could be French in origin, but most agree it was designed as a «memory and forfeits» game, in which singers tested their recall of the lyrics and had to award their opponents a «forfeit» — a kiss or a favor of some kind — if they made a mistake.

Many variations of the lyrics have existed at different points. Some mention «bears a-baiting» or «ships a-sailing»; some name the singer’s mother as the gift giver instead of their true love. Early versions list four «colly» birds, an archaic term meaning black as coal (blackbirds, in other words). And some people theorize that the five gold rings actually refer to the markings of a ring-necked pheasant, which would align with the bird motif of the early verses.

In any case, the song most of us are familiar with today comes from an English composer named Frederic Austin; in 1909, he set the melody and lyrics (including changing «colly» to «calling») and added as his own flourish the drawn-out cadence of «five go-old rings.»

The song is not a coded primer on Christianity

A popular theory that’s made the internet rounds is that the lyrics to «The 12 Days of Christmas» are coded references to Christianity; it posits that the song was written to help Christians learn and pass on the tenets of their faith while avoiding persecution. Under that theory, the various gifts break down as follows, as the myth-debunking website Snopes explained:

2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments

3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the «Pentateuch,» which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.

6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation

7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments

9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments

11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles

12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

The partridge in the pear tree, naturally, represents Jesus Christ.

This theory seems tailor-made for circulation via chain emails, but it actually makes little sense once you examine it. Snopes has a great explanation of the many, many holes in its logic. The most egregious: First, the song’s gifts have nothing to do with their Christian «equivalents,» so the song is basically useless as a way to remember key pillars of the faith. And second, if Christians were so restricted from practicing their faith that they had to conceal messages in a song, they also wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas in the first place — much less sing Christmas carols.

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The late historian William Studwell, known for his Christmas carol expertise, also refuted the coded message idea. Via a Northern Illinois University news release:

First, Catholics of that era were not terribly persecuted, so there would have been little need for their teachings to have been secretive. Also, the breezy, bouncy nature of the tune hardly fits with the character of the church at that time. Finally, neither Studwell, nor any other reputable researcher, has ever found a definitive explanation of what each of the 12 gifts in the song would have correlated to in the Catholic catechism.

Sorry to spoil your dinner party fun fact; while I’m at it, I might as well tell you «Ring Around the Rosie» isn’t about the Black Plague, either.

Giving someone all the gifts in the song would be . pricey

To calculate the cost of all the gifts in «The 12 Days of Christmas,» I’ll turn to the PNC financial services group’s annual Christmas Price Index, which PNC has been putting out since 1984 (and which occasionally makes its way into school lesson plans). The index calculates the cost of all the gifts in the song based on current market rates; 2020’s total comes to a hefty $39,094.93, or $170,609.46 if you count each mention of an item separately (which would amount to 364 gifts in all) — up 1.2 percent from last year.

PNC Financial Services Group

The takeaway: Swans are damn expensive (at $1,875 each/$13,125 for all seven) but at least stayed the same price as last year, while the cost of the five gold rings ($750 total) is down 9.1 percent from last year, due to “less demand and fluctuations in gold prices throughout 2020,” per PNC. No matter the cost, though, actually giving someone all this stuff is probably not a great idea; just think of all the bird poo.

Are there any other versions of «The 12 days of Christmas»?

The structure of «The 12 Days of Christmas» lends itself easily to parodies, of which there have been many. There’s Jeff Foxworthy’s redneck version, Twisted Sister’s heavy metal take, and, of course, a Muppets version (featuring John Denver):

There’s also a 12 days of Christmas diet of sorts, which the Atlantic’s Olga Khazan attempted in 2020. She calculated the calories in a serving of each bird mentioned in the song, and offset them with the calories burned by the various activities (milking, leaping, etc.). Turns out all that poultry is somehow less indulgent than the typical American holiday meal. She sums up:

If you ate all of the birds in one day, including the pheasant pie, but not including all the trimmings for the other dishes, and subtracted the energy you expended milking, dancing, leaping, and drumming, you’d have consumed 2,384 net calories. That’s really not bad, considering the average American Thanksgiving dinner adds up to about 4,500 calories.

It seems even more reasonable, relatively speaking, when you consider that if you wanted to burn off your meal by just singing its namesake tune, you’d have to make it all the way through roughly 300 times — about 17 and a half hours of caroling. And that’s a gift we doubt anyone would welcome.

12 Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas begins on December 25 and end just before Epiphany, that falls on January 6. Epiphany is a Christian feast intended to celebrate the ‘shining forth’ or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus Christ. The observance originally included the birth of Jesus Christ; the visit of the three Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who arrived in Bethlehem; and all of Jesus’ childhood events, up to his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist.

The feast was initially based on, and viewed as a fulfillment of the Jewish Feast of Lights known as Chanukah. This was fixed on January 6 , but over time the western churches decided to celebrate Christmas on December 25. The eastern churches continued to treat January 6 as the day marking Jesus’s birth. This has given rise in the west to the notion of a twelve day festival, starting on December 25 and ending on January 6, called the twelve days of Christmas.

Feasting And Merrymaking

In the Middle Ages, this period was one of continuous feasting and merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season. During the twelve days of Christmas, traditional roles were often relaxed, masters waited on their servants, men were allowed to dress as women, and women as men. Often a Lord of misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels. Some of these traditions have an echo in modern day pantomime where traditionally authority is mocked and the principal male lead is played by a woman, while the leading older female character, or ‘Dame’ is played by a man.

This period is referred to in the song Twelve Days of Christmas. Twelve Days of Christmas is a traditional Christmas song, or Christmas Carol. The Twelve Days of Christmas are the days from December 25 to January 6 or the Twelfth Night. The date of the song’s first performance is not known, though it was used in European and Scandinavia traditions as early as the 16th century.

The 12 Days of Christmas» is in a sense an allegory. Each of the items in the song represents something significant to the teachings of the Catholic faith. The hidden meaning of each gift was designed to help Catholic children learn their faith. The song goes, «On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…» The «true love» mentioned in the song refers to God Himself. The «me» who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. i.e. the Church.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

1st Day: The partridge in a pear tree is Christ Jesus upon the Cross.

2nd Day: The «two turtle doves» refers to the Old and New Testaments.

3rd Day: The «three French hens» stand for faith, hope and love.

4th Day: The «four calling birds» refers to the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

5th Day: The «five golden rings» represents the first five books of the Bible, also called the Jewish Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

6th Day: The «six geese a-laying» is the six days of creation.

7th Day: The «seven swans a-swimming» refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

8th Day: The «eight maids a milking » reminded children of the eight beatitudes listed in the Sermon on the Mount.

9th Day: The «nine ladies dancing» were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

10th Day: The «ten lords a-leaping» represents the Ten Commandments.

11th Day: The «eleven pipers piping» refers to the eleven faithful apostles.

12th Day: The ‘twelve drummers drumming» were the twelve points of belief expressed in the Apostles’ Creed: belief in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, made man, crucified, died and arose on the third day, that he sits at the right hand of the father and will come again, the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.

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12 Days of Christmas Games

Who doesn’t know the 12 Days of Christmas song? Try out these fun 12 days of Christmas games this year for a modern twist on a new classic! They make perfect family Christmas games or Christmas games for adults – fun and hilarious for all ages!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something via an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

If there is one song at Christmas that I can always remember the words to, it’s the 12 Days of Christmas. I can’t the same for the rest of the world based on the answers provided in this Christmas Family Feud game but hey, everyone has their own strengths!

But it’s one that I love, probably why I did an entire 12 days of Christmas party a couple of years ago that is still one of my favorite themes ever!

And this year, I decided to take it one step further and create 12 days of Christmas inspired Christmas party games! We typically like to play these minute to win it style but you could always just play them as 12 separate Christmas party games as well with different players – easy either way.

12 Days of Christmas Minute to Win It Games

If you want to play these minute to win it style, you can do it in one of three ways depending on how many guests you have and how much you want each person to participate!

#1 – Player vs Clock

In this style, you pick one person (or one team) to play each game and they have to complete the challenge in under a minute. If they do, they win. If they don’t, they lose.

If you do it this way, I recommend having a prize for each game so if someone wins they get the prize.

#2 – Head to Head

In this style, pick two people (or two teams) to play each game. First person or team to finish the challenge, no matter how long they take, wins the game and takes home the prize for that game.

#3 – Teams

This works best if you have a large group and want everyone to participate.

In this style, break up all of your guests into teams. For each game, pick one person (or two or however many that game calls for) from each team to play each game. First person to finish the challenge wins 5 points for their team, second wins 3 points, and third wins 1 point.

Keep count and whichever team ends with the most points at the end of all of the games wins.

How to Play These Christmas Games

I’ve included instructions on how to setup your game structure above and below are individual supply lists and instructions for all 12 days of Christmas games! They’re all easy, fun, and perfect for all ages!

To get an idea of how the games work, you can watch the Christmas games video below!

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Supplies Needed:

  • Printed out pictures of a pear
  • Tape (to tape the pictures to the players)
  • A bucket
  • Badminton birdies
  • One blindfold per team

How to Play:

This is a two player game. Have one player from each team tape a pear to the front of their shirt, give them a bucket, then have them stand on one side of the room. Have the other person stand on the other side of the room, blindfold them, and give them a bowl full of Badminton birdies.

To play, one player must toss birdies and try and land one in the other person’s bucket. The catch – the bucket must be held on the person’s head and they are not allowed to move to catch the birdie, they’re a tree after all. Teams must communicate with one another to toss the “partridge” into the “tree.”

Two Turtle Doves

Supplies Needed:

How to Play:

Give each player three of each of the Dove candies and turtles. To play, players must try to stack the candies, alternating between a turtle and a dove, on top of each other and get them to stand for three seconds without falling.

Three French Hens

Supplies Needed:

  1. One small French baguette per person
  2. Plastic eggs – 10 per team

How to Play:

This is a two-player game. Give one person the baguette and have them stand on one side of the room. Give the other person the bucket of plastic eggs and have them stand on the other side of the room.

To play, the first player must toss plastic eggs to their teammate who must try to use the baguette like a baseball bat to hit the egg back to their teammate. To count, the teammate must catch the egg in the air. First team to catch one egg wins. Or if that’s too easy for your group, make it three eggs.

Four Calling Birds

Supplies Needed:

  • One cell phone per player

How to Play:

Give each player a cell phone and when you say go, they must call someone on the phone and get them to make a bird sound – loud enough for the judge to hear it. They can call whoever they want and say whatever they want to get them to make a bird sound.

First person to get an audible bird sound from the person they called wins.

Five Golden Rings

Supplies Needed:

  • Golden gift bags or boxes
  • Something heavy (and not breakable) to weigh down the bags
  • Hula hoops (even better if you spray them gold or buy these ones)

How to Play:

Place the weighted down gift bags on one side of the room, lining them up far enough apart that there is space for a hula hoop to lay around them.

Have players line up on the other side of the room, opposite a gift bag. Give each player a hula hoop.

When you say go, players have to roll their hula hoop down to the gift bag and try to get it to land around the gift bag without knocking the bag over. If they knock the bag over, they must go down, set it back up, and run back to continue trying.

First person to ring their gift bag wins!

Six Geese-A-Laying

Supplies Needed:

  • One large plastic goose egg per person – taped shut
  • One small plate per person

How to Play:

Place a line of plates (one per person) on one side of the room. Have players line up on the other side of the room, opposite a plate. Give each player one of the plastic goose eggs.

To play, players must put the goose egg between their legs and waddle down to the plate then without using their hands, drop the egg onto the plate. The catch? The egg must stay on the plate, if it rolls off they must run back and try again from the beginning.

If a player drops the egg on their way to the plate, same thing – they must run back and try again. First player to successfully lay their goose egg on the plate wins.

Seven Swans-A-Swimming

Supplies:

How to Play:

Before you play, place a different colored dot sticker on each of the swans so you can tell whose is whose when you’re playing. Fill the storage container with water.

Give each player one of the swans and the straw. Have everyone place their swan in the water right up against the edge of the container. If you have more than two people, you’ll likely need more than one container.

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When you say go, players must use the straw to blow their swan from one side of the container to the other. First one to reach the other side wins.

Eight Maids-A-Milking

Supplies Needed:

How to Play:

Give each player a feather duster and a milk bottle. Set a bowl full of Milk Duds in the middle of a table where everyone playing can reach.

When you say go, players put their milk bottle on the ground alongside the table. They can place it wherever they want and continue to move it throughout the game.

To play, they must take one Milk Dud at a time, place it on the table, then use only the feather duster to sweep it off the edge of the table, trying to get it to land in the empty milk bottle. First person to land a Milk Dud in the milk bottle wins.

Nine Ladies Dancing

How to Play:

This game requires at least two players but can have more if you want to make it more like Reverse Charades – Christmas song version.

Choose one person from the team to be the guesser and everyone else will be the dancers. Give the guesser the stack of index cards, face down so they can’t see the songs on the cards.

When you say go, the guesser must place the first card on their forehead (kind of like in these New Year’s Eve games) and the rest of the team must play dance charades – dancing out the song on the card. No words, numbers, or props – just dance charades.

Team to get the most songs in a minute wins.

Ten Lords-A-Leaping

Supplies Needed:

  • Sticks, poles, brooms, or something else similar
  • Ping pong balls
  • Large box or large bowl
  • Small bowl

How to Play:

Place a stick across two chairs or some other way to create a “hurdle,” and place in the middle of the room. On one side of the room, place the large box or bowl. On the other side of the room, place a bowl of ping pong balls.

Have player sit next to the bowl of ping pong balls and when you say go, they must bounce the ping pong ball over the stick/pole and get it to land in the box. First player to get one in wins or if that’s too easy for your group, do three.

Eleven Pipers Piping

Supplies Needed:

  • One pipe cleaner either cut in half or folded in half per person
  • Small PVC pipe per person
  • Table

Place the pipe cleaners evenly around the table so that there is enough space around them for people to stand, one person per pipe. Give each person a pipe cleaner.

When you say go, players must hold the pipe cleaner at least chin level (they can go higher but not lower) and try to drop it and get it to land in the pipe cleaner. Shorter people will have a slight advantage, but it doesn’t seem to matter that much since it’s still a good distance away.

First player to successfully drop their pipe cleaner into the PVC pipe wins.

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Supplies Needed:

How to Play:

Give each player a plastic cup and chopstick. When you say go, players must place the cup face up either on the table or floor (their choice) then use the chopsticks like a drumstick to get the cup to flip over and land upright.

First player to flip their cup over and get it to land upright wins.

I highly recommend watching the video in this post for more details because it’s a bit hard to explain, but it’s so fun!

Get Printable Christmas Games Instructions

Want a printable version of these games with all the supplies and instructions included in one PDF? Enter your first name and email address below, and you’ll be taken to the PDF and emailed a copy. If you can’t see the form, click here to get to it.

More Hilarious Christmas Games

If these aren’t enough for you, make sure to check out some of these other fun Christmas party games as well! Or any of these gift exchange games are fun too!

When are the 12 days of Christmas, what does each day of Twelvetide mean and when does it start?

The 12 days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a Christian festival that celebrates the Nativity of Jesus Christ

  • 14 Nov 2020, 14:45
  • Updated: 14 Nov 2020, 16:10

WE all know the famous 12 days of Christmas song, even if we regularly mix up what happens on the tenth and fourth days.

But when are the actual 12 days of Christmas? Here’s when they start and end, and the meaning behind them.

When are the 12 days of Christmas and when does it start and end?

The 12 days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a Christian celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.

Twelvetide officially starts on Christmas Day on December 25 and finishes on January 5, inclusively.

During these twelve days, there are both religious and secular celebrations.

It is also known by some as Christmastide.

What does each day of Twelvetide mean?

Each day of Twelvetide has a different meaning:

    The first day of Twelvet >

MOST READ IN FABULOUS

BETTER TOGETHER

STACE’S SPACE

RAIL-Y CHEAP

PALACE PRANK

SINKING FEELING

SLAP HAPPY

And this is what your true love gave to you on the final day.

  • Twelve drummers drumming
  • Eleven pipers piping
  • Ten lords a-leaping
  • Nine ladies dancing
  • Eight ma >

BETTER TOGETHER

Mum of conjoined twins refuses to separate them after docs advised abortion

STACE’S SPACE

Inside Stacey Solomon’s cosy home with Joe Swash featuring giant kitchen

RAIL-Y CHEAP

B&M is flogging floor-length velvet curtains for a quid

PALACE PRANK

Kate sends cheeky message to Camila Cabello after she nicked palace pencil

SINKING FEELING

Mum sends nasty texts to swim coach — who offered to teach her son for FREE

SLAP HAPPY

Our partners have NEVER seen us without make-up. until now

SON AND HAIR

My son was born with a FULL head of hair…it even showed up on his baby scan

BRIGHT > Mums go wild for £22 reflective school coat from Next, ideal for dark evenings

MULL IT OVER

You can now get paid £50 an hour to drink mulled wine and visit Xmas markets

WHAT’S THE CRACK?

Woman claims ‘bum sunning’ ritual boosts energy but docs warn against it

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