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In England (from 1558 to 1829), it was illegal for Catholics to practice any pieces of their faith in their homes or in public. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written as a "catechism song" to assist young Catholics to learn the tenets of their faith without being obvious to the outside world, that it was of religious roots.

The gifts mentioned in the song symbolize different teachings of Catholicism, and the giver of the gifts, "My true love," is God. The recipient of the presents refers anyone who has been baptized.

The symbols:Partridge in a pear tree = Jesus

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

6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation

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

8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes

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 12 days are the period from the birth of Christ to the arrival of the wise men.

According to Snopes.com:

"There is no substantive evidence to demonstrate that the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was created or used as a secret means of preserving tenets of the Catholic faith, or that this claim is anything but a fanciful modern day speculation, similar to the many apocryphal "hidden meanings" of various nursery rhymes. Moreover, several flaws in the explanation argue compellingly against it."

See the related link below.

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Q: What do the 12 days of Christmas mean?
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