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Do You Know About the Real 12 Days of Christmas?

At this time of year we often sing the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” We may even act them out or change the words to make them even more funny and applicable to our home, school, ministry or business. However, if you travel back in time, you will be amazed to discover that the original words were written for early Christians to share their faith without persecution. Each day’s gift had special significance.

First day: The original gift of Christmas is Jesus and the Pear Tree represents the cross.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

2nd Day of Christmas: The two turtle doves represent the Old and New Testaments.

3rd Day of Christmas: French hens were valuable poultry during the 16th century.

“When the wise men saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10-11)

Some believed it also represented faith, hope, and love.

4th Day of Christmas: Four calling birds represent the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

The 5th Day of Christmas: Gold rings are among the most valuable and treasured of all gifts. The five golden rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, or Law. These are treated with great reverence and worth more than gold.

No prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face…for no one has even shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” (Deuteronomy 34:10)

The Sixth Day of Christmas: In many cultures, eggs symbolize new life. Six geese a-laying reminds us of the six days of creation when God, by His Word, brought forth life.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” Genesis 1:1, 31

The Seventh Day of Christmas: Seven swans-a-swimming symbolize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Just as baby swans grow and change form “ugly ducklings” into beautiful and graceful birds, so do God’s children grow and change through the work of the Holy Spirit. The various gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed for the benefit of the entire body of Christ.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us…” (Romans 12:6-8).

On the 8th Day of Christmas: Eight maids-a-milking represent eight unique teachings of Jesus called the Beatitudes. These words came from Jesus, from His Sermon on the Mount, nurture and strengthen us much the way milk nourishes a child. (Matthew 5:3-12)

On the 9th Day of Christmas: My true love gave to me nine ladies dancing reminds us of the nine different fruits of the Holy Spirit produced in the lives of God’s children. Just as these ladies are dancing, these gifts cause us to rejoice in great celebration!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

On the 10th day of Christmas: Ten lords a-leaping symbolize God’s ten basic laws, otherwise knows as the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20-3-17)

On the 11th day of Christmas: Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven apostles who were chosen by Jesus that remained faithful to him. Like children joyfully following a piper, these disciples followed Jesus and called others to follow Him. They piped an everlasting tune of great joy: the salvation message of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

“These are the 12 appointed: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John..Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaes, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him” (Mark 3:16-19).

On the 12th Day of Christmas: Just as drummers beat out a loud, steady rhythm for marchers to follow, so too did the Apostle’s Creed sets forth the beliefs of those who call themselves Christians. The twelve drummers represent twelve points of belief as stated in the Apostle’s Creed.

It is important for children to not only know Christmas carols and hymns, but the stories behind the great carols and hymns of our faith. We believe it is part of the heritage that we are passing down to this next generation.

May you be blessed with the hope, peace, joy, and love of knowing and celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, this Christmas.

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jodycapehart@churchleaders.com'
Jody Capehart has more than 40 years' experience as a children's minister. She's the co-author of The Discipline Guide for Children's Ministry and the author of numerous other books. She currently teaches Sunday School at Stonebriar Community Church.