The history of the Christmas carol, “The 12 Days of Christmas,” isn’t entirely clear. The earliest known version dates back to 1780 in a children’s book titled Mirth With-out Mischief, but it had almost certainly been around for some time before that. According to, “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.”

In Christian theology, the 12 days of Christmas run from Dec. 25 (the birth of Christ) to Jan. 6 (the coming of the Magi – the Epiphany or Three Kings Day). So one interpretation is that it was written as a “catechism song” to help Catholic children remember the tenets of their faith. It works like this…

The [Purported] Symbolism Behind “The 12 Days of Christmas” 

* “true love” = God

* “me” = the person who is baptized

* “partridge in a pear tree” = Jesus Christ

* “two turtle doves” = the Old and New Testaments

* “three French hens” = faith, hope, and charity

* “four calling birds” = the four gospels and/or the four evangelists

* “five golden rings” = the first five books of the Old Testament (the history of man’s fall from grace)

* “six geese a-laying” = the six days of creation

* “seven swans a-swimming” = the seven sacraments

* “eight maids a-milking” = the eight beatitudes

* “nine ladies dancing” = the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit

* “10 lords a-leaping” = the Ten Commandments

* “11 pipers piping” = the 11 faithful apostles

* “12 drummers drumming” = the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

This, as I say, is one interpretation. It doesn’t especially work for me. I prefer to leave the symbols less doctrinaire. But if you like to think of them that way, there you have it.

Continue Reading

convivial (adjective) 

This is a joyful, exuberant, sociable time of year – made festive with the pleasures of good food, good drink, and good company. In other words, it’s the most “convivial” (kun-VIV-ee-ul) of all holidays.

Continue Reading

You know what eggnog is – the traditional Christmas/New Year’s drink consisting of milk or cream, sugar, and eggs beaten together and often mixed with rum or brandy. But why is it called “eggnog”? Egg, yes. But nog?

According to my dictionary, a nog is a small wooden block or peg. Doesn’t make sense to me, so I did a little research and found many theories. One suggests that it comes from the Middle English word “noggin,” which was a wooden mug for serving alcohol. Another claims that it’s derived from an Old English word for strong ale. A third attributes it to Colonial America, where it was referred to as egg-and-grog. (Rum was called grog.) And there are lots more.

So the only thing we really know about “nog” is that it maybe/probably has something to do with alcohol…

Continue Reading

“Mistletoe” by Walter de la Mare

 Sitting under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

One last candle burning low,

All the sleepy dancers were gone,

Just one candle burning on,

Shadows lurking everywhere:

Someone came and kissed me there.


Tired I was; my head would go

Nodding under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

No footsteps came, no voice, but only,

Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,

Stooped in the still and shadowy air

Lips unseen – and kissed me there.

Continue Reading