The Twelve Days of Christmas

TITLE: The Twelve Days of Christmas
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: Christmas, cumulative
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1780 children’s book Mirth without Mischief

The twelve days of Christmas in the song are the twelve days between the birth of Christ (Christmas, December 25) and the coming of the Magi (Epiphany, January 6). Although the specific origins of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas are not known, it possibly began as a Twelfth Night “memory-and-forfeits” game in which the leader recited a verse, each of the players repeated the verse, the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake, with the player who erred having to pay a penalty, such as a offering up a kiss or a sweet. This is how the song was presented in its earliest known printed version, in the 1780 children’s book Mirth Without Mischief. (The song is apparently much older than this printed version, but we do not currently know how much older.) Textual evidence indicates that the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was not English in origin, but French. Three French versions of the song are known, and items mentioned in the song itself (the partridge, for example, which was not introduced to England from France until the late 1770s) are indicative of a French origin.  (from 12days.com

If you’ve heard that the song The Twelve Days of Christmas was created as a coded reference to important articles of the Christian faith, check out the article on snopes.com.

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • The Christmas Presents
  • A Partridge in a Pear Tree

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

YOUTUBE VIDEO: 

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: John Denver and the Muppets

12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me… a partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me…three French hens, Two turtle doves,…and a partridge in a pear tree

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me. . . four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me. . .Five golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me. . . six geese a laying. . . . Five golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me. . . seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying. Five golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me. . .eight maids a milking , seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying. Five golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the Ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me. . .nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking , seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying. Five golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the Tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me. . .ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking , seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying. Five golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the Eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me. . . eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking , seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying. Five golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the Twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to 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 golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books

SONGBOOKS:

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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