Friend of the family sent me a forwarded email this morning that always seems to make the rounds this time of year. It claims to reveal how the song The Twelve Days of Christmas is a coded reference to various Christian concepts that are important to that faith.
Did you know…
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their 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 was Jesus Christ.
– Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I
found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song
became a Christmas Carol…so pass it on if you wish.
And a fine history lesson it is too, except it’s wrong. A good site for reading up on the true history and nature of the song is Snopes.com (also known as the Urban Legends References Pages) and I recommend checking it anytime you get emails like this before forwarding them on to everyone you know.
This is another example of a group of Christians someplace out there who wish to rewrite the history behind various objects and songs associated with Christmas to make them relevant to the faith in some way. There’s another email that goes around at this time of year that makes the claim that Candy Canes were created to symbolize Jesus which is also not true. The idea that there are Christmas traditions that are secular in nature seems to bother these folks so they set about contriving a story to link the tradition with the holiday. It’s not all that dissimilar to the folks who go to great lengths to edit quotes (or make up completely bogus ones) made by the Founding Fathers to try and support the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation.
I’m guessing that the main intent behind engaging in this sort of deception is to make fellow believers feel better about the validity of their faith by showing, in part, how their ancestors managed to keep the faith during periods when their beliefs were being persecuted. The problem is that there doesn’t appear to be any historical evidence to support the idea of there ever being catechism-songs written for anything, let alone as a way to codify Christian concepts in a seemingly secular song. It does the Christian faith no good in the long run to continue to promote and popularize historical myths as it’ll just make folks resent the religion when the truth is revealed.