I’ve always wondered what it would be like to receive these gifts and the mess you’d have to clean up after receiving them, not to mention the cacophony that would fill the rafters.
There’s a lot of speculation as to what this carol means, but one thought is that it was a way for children to remember the tenets of the church.
To me the focus should be on the partridge in the pear tree, since it’s mentioned with each additional gift. The “true love” in the song is reference to our One and Only God, who loved us so much more than we deserve.
A Partridge in a Pear Tree – Jesus Christ
Two Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testaments
Three French Hens – The three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
Four Calling/Collie Birds – Four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Five Golden Rings – First five books of the Old Testament
Six Geese-a-Laying – Six days of creation before God’s rest on the seventh day
Seven Swans-a-Swimming – Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight Maids-a-Milking – Eight Beatitudes
Nine Ladies Dancing – Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten Lords-a-Leaping – Ten Commandments
Eleven Pipers Piping – Eleven faithful disciples
Twelve Drummers Drumming -Twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
Gives the song a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?