Video Fix: Is there a hidden meaning behind ‘The 12 days of Christmas’?

December 13, 2017 5:16 pm

In today’s world, Christmas is considered as a celebration reaching its peak on the 25th of December, however back in the day, the 25th only meant the beginning of the Christmas festivities, lasting 12 days. These 12 days of Christmas would continue on to the following year, ending on the 6th of January when the Epiphany or the visit of the three wise men is celebrated.

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Amongst the vast amount of Christmas carols that one listens to at this time of the year, one of the most popular is undoubtedly ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ which was originally penned in 1780, however it was after some time that the composer Frederic Austin added some melody to the lyrics.

Some theories claim that this Christmas carol has in fact a hidden meaning, with all the ‘gifts’ presented meaning something else. It is said that during the time of writing, in England it was not permitted to practice Catholicism, and for this reason, the Christmas carol was created as a form of ‘secret catechism’ that could be sung in public without any fear. Subsequently, each verse is said to have a different meaning than the apparent one, all revolving around Christian teachings. For example, the two turtle doves are meant torepresent the Old and New Testaments. The four calling birds represent the four Gospels.

Despite all of this, many, however believe that this carol is only a folk song with no hidden meaning. In fact, some people say that these meanings were added much later and would date closer to the present day.

However, it is interesting how this explanation links all the gifts mentioned in ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ carol, to Christian beliefs.



  • ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, Wikipedia. Available here. [Accessed on 13/12/2017]
  • ‘The Hidden Meaning of The twelve Days of Christmas’, Today’s 101.9. Available here. [Accessed 12/12/2017]
  • ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas – The Real Meaning’, Youtube. Available here. [Accessed 13/12/2017]
  • ‘What are the 12 Days of Christmas?’ Thoughtco. Available here. [Accessed 13/12/2017]

Written by

Veronica Lynn Mizzi – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate in the Maltese Language and Communication, and Master’s graduate in Translation and Terminology Studies from the University of Malta; Former Journalist

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