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'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! #308517 01/01/09 12:53 PM
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Alice Offline OP
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This is from a forwarded e-mail I received, so I cannot vouch for its accuracy--but if it is true, it is quite interesting!!
***************************************************************

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.

What in the world do leaping lords, French hens,
swimming swans, and especial ly the partridge who won't come out
of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

This week, I found out.

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.

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness,
Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

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.'


Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Alice] #308542 01/01/09 07:52 PM
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Father Deacon Ed Offline
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Aside from the fact that this is totally false it does show that someone had too much time on their hands and was rather clever. The Church of England had beliefs that were virtually identical to those of the Catholic Church so there was no need to use "coded" teachings. Further, the song is probably originally French and not English, although there was an English version dating from the 1780's -- well after the period where this was supposed to have taken place.

Fr. Deacon Ed

Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Father Deacon Ed] #308546 01/01/09 08:15 PM
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Alice Offline OP
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Quote
This is from a forwarded e-mail I received, so I cannot vouch for its accuracy--but if it is true, it is quite interesting!!


My goddaughter sent it to me, and I thought I would share it--
but I think I am sorry that I did.

Alice frown

Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Alice] #308708 01/04/09 08:36 AM
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Pavel Ivanovich Offline
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Thank you for that email Alice. I had a quick look on Good ol'Google and found this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_(song)

The negative comment above was a bit over the top.

Last edited by Pavel Ivanovich; 01/04/09 08:36 AM.
Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Pavel Ivanovich] #308709 01/04/09 09:39 AM
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Alice Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Pavel Ivanovich
Thank you for that email Alice. I had a quick look on Good ol'Google and found this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_(song)

The negative comment above was a bit over the top.


...and thank you for your charity, dear brother in Christ! smile

Wishing you a very happy and blessed new year,
Alice

Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Alice] #308729 01/04/09 08:46 PM
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theophan Offline
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Alice:

Christ is born!! Glorify Him!!

I was mystified by the negative comment you received. Our diocesan paper had an article by a prominent priest who writes for many papers across the country. He mentions the same thing you posted.

So in any event it is a good catechetical tool.

BOB

Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: theophan] #308813 01/05/09 05:24 PM
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Memo Rodriguez Offline
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Hi,

It seems to me that every Christmas time this legend about the song comes back.

I have no elements to judge on the historical validity of the claims, but it strikes me as odd to have the verses of the song represent things we actually have in common with Anglicans and then entirely miss things that were actually points of dispute such as devotion to Our Lady and the Saints, the sacraments, indulgences, Purgatory and such.

Let's imagine that our secular society succeeds in outlawing God and religion. Would we people of faith then go on and write a song to secretly teach about democracy, civil rights, equality, freedom of speech, etc. without even the slightest hint of anything that might symbolize God or religion?

What would be the point?

Shalom,
Memo

Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Memo Rodriguez] #308882 01/06/09 02:58 PM
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Father Deacon Ed Offline
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Dear Alice,

I apologize if my post seemed excessively negative. That was not my intention. I have extremely limited time right now for posting and tried to make my post as concise as I could. It was never my intention to be negative toward you but, rather, to the idea that the "12 Days of Christmas" was some sort of "hidden catechism." This idea arose in the late 19th or early 20th century (nobody is quite sure where), and was certainly unknown in England at the time.

Again, I apologize if you were offended by my comments.

Fr. Deacon Ed

Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Father Deacon Ed] #308885 01/06/09 03:39 PM
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Dear Alice,

In fact, Father Deacon Ed is right - the 12 Days of Christmas was unknown in England until much later.

Where it WAS known was in . . . Ireland and during the penal days where Catholicism was brutally persecuted. It is, in fact, an Irish, not an English, song and it was, indeed, used to teach catechism to Irish Catholic children.

At least so I was taught by our Irish university chaplain who had studied the history of Catholicism in Ireland.

The ingenious Irish Catholics developed all sorts of "code" songs, traditions and symbols to hide their Catholicism before the brutal Protestant troops of Oliver Cromwell especially.

We are familiar with the "Irish penal rosary" which is a ten-decade rosary with a ring that one puts on each of our five fingers as we say the five decades. Irish penal crosses often bore the various instruments of Christ's Passion on them - each of which had further, "sub-meanings" designed to teach about Christianity.

There were also special Irish penal hand crosses that people used to meditate on Christ's Passion with "breakable arms," that is, with the side bars to which Christ's Hands were nailed capable of collapsing should the need arise so that people could hide them in their clothes quickly at the approach of enemy troops.

It was the persecuted Irish who developed the tradition of placing candles in their windows as a signal to recusant priests travelling through that theirs was a "safe house" where they would be welcome and could receive food, shelter and where they could say Mass.

When asked by the Cromwellian troops about what those candles signified, the Irish simply replied, "We are lighting the way of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem."

Thus was born the tradition of Christmas lights and the Christmas lighting industry!

The Irish not only saved civilization, they indeed prospered it!

260 Venerable Irish Martyrs of this time period await the honours of the altar, many of whom were cast into prisons specifically designed so that the inmates could neither sit, nor stand nor lie down - and this for months on end.

As for the point that the Church of England had similar beliefs and that such a catechism would not be necessary . . .

In fact, at that time there was no "half full" theory of an outside church group's orthodoxy or anything like that.

Anglicans were also called "atheists" by Catholics at that time since to deny one aspect of the faith was to deny it completely -and also that even though the Anglicans and others believed in the Trinity and Christ, there was the view that since they were heretics, their understanding of these doctrines was defective and so they did NOT hold to the true doctrine and belief about the Trinity and Christ.

I once had an academic paper on this from that Spiritan Father and might still have it somewhere.

But what is most germane to me is the historic and social context that generated these Irish traditions. It is that context that makes the 12 days of Christmas song and other practices a logical and valid conclusion more than anything.

And I'm not being charitable to you in this regard, only factual!

But you know of my deep and warm regard for you and your inspiring spirituality.

Kali Khronia,

Alex

Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Orthodox Catholic] #308897 01/06/09 06:14 PM
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Alice Offline OP
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Dear Father Deacon Ed,

Thank you for your apology and also for your clarification. smile

I understand how this written form of communication, without the expressions and nuances of verbal communication, needs ample time to sound just 'right'.

Dear Alex,

It is interesting to know that this was indeed a catechism, but of the Irish. Although my sweet and extremely bright 14 year old goddaughter did not write this e-mail, but rather forwarded it after receiving it, I shall inform her of the correction. I am sure that she will appreciate it. So thank you.

A blessed Theophany to all on the new calendar,
and a blessed Christmas to you Alex tomorrow!

In Christ,
Alice

Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Alice] #308962 01/07/09 07:25 AM
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Prester John Offline
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I'm late to this thread, but the original language of the song states "four colly birds" not "calling birds."

Colly means black.

Also, the five gold(en)rings are the ring necked pheasant.

It appears that the true love in the song wanted to be sure his true love ate well this Christmas!

Re: 'Partridge in a pear tree' catechism! [Re: Alice] #308964 01/07/09 07:38 AM
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Fr Serge Keleher Offline
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Dear Aliki,

Kala Christougenna! Wish you were here (although I'm also glad you're not here, because Dublin is having a incredibly bitter cold snap, and I have a touch of 'flu). I think this is called "emotional ambiguity" or something like that.

Haven't been to an Italian Christmas Eve Supper for about 25 years - but if you are ever invited to one, GO FOR IT! They serve 12 different kinds of fish and sea food. This is known as the "ieiunium gaudiosum", the joyful fast. Whatever about the Italians (and I have nothing at all against them), they certainly know how to cook - and they certainly know how to sing Grand Opera. Viva Italia!

Now about those partridges . . . not to mention the pheasants!

p. Sergios


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