Every mall is decked out in holiday themes, from traditional wreaths and trees to African animals, and even mermaids! Everyone’s last song syndrome is no doubt a carol, and the fruitcakes have started making the rounds. Christmas is officially here.
If you are like me, you’ve probably got half the Christmas tree set up, a long list printed out, but only a handful of gifts actually purchased and wrapped. And while many children can happily count on receiving their dream gifts this year, for most parents, it remains just that—a dream.
Since dreams are free, I thought of coming up with my own Christmas wish list, using a favorite carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Who knew that this now Yuletide standard was something of a secret catechism code? The Catholics used it in the midst of religious persecution in England in the 16th to 18th centuries.
At the time, Catholicism was outlawed, and fearing that the faith would be forgotten, someone created a seemingly harmless song and used it as a code of Church doctrines. Through the song, Christians could remember the teachings and, under the guise of singing, preach it without fear of reprisal.
What the lyrics mean
In the song, the 12 days are book-ended by the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, December 25, and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, when the Three Wise Men pay their respects and reveal the baby Jesus as the “light of the world.”
The “true love” referred to in the lyrics—“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”—is God, who gave all the gifts mentioned in the song.
Just as important, the “partridge in a pear tree” is His son Jesus—God’s most important gift to humanity.
The “two turtledoves” are the Old and New Testaments in the Bible. In my case, I would like to channel this gift to the continued good health of the two sides of our family—my parents and those of my husband.
The “three French hens” symbolize faith, hope and love. Who wouldn’t want to receive these three gifts? I would ask for all of them for my three children.
The “four calling birds” are the four Gospels of the New Testament. Now, aside from the gospels, what would I want four of? Ah, four massage treats for every weekend in the crazy month of December!
The “five gold rings” remind us of the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Hebrew Torah (Law), or the Pentateuch. If there is something else that comes to mind when I think of five items for Christmas, how about five minutes of peace and quiet between bickering siblings?
Meanwhile, the “six geese a-laying” stand for the six days it took God to create the world. I’m not the most creative one in the family, but I do love making photo albums of each year, each birthday and trip for my family.
The problem is time. If I had six days that I could dedicate just to making albums and finally catching up with my major backlog, I would be one happy camper.
The “seven swans a-swimming” signify the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Maybe I could have a seven-day vacation spent swimming and hanging out under the sun (or shade, I’m fine with either) with my loved ones?
The “eight maids a-milking” are the eight Beatitudes. For many a sleep-deprived mother, eight could also stand for a full eight hours of sleep at night! Remember how that felt?
The “nine ladies dancing” are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. For this season, I would definitely enjoy a night out of dancing with my favorite ladies, no matter how many they are.
The “10 lords a-leaping” are the 10 Commandments as God revealed them to Moses. I’m thinking of my dining table, which seats 10, and how nice it would be to have a Christmas dinner or lunch with all of my loved ones gathered around it.
“Eleven pipers piping” stand for the 11 faithful Apostles. Hello to the no-fail gift—ensaymada! In my case, make that 11 in a box of 12, because no mom ever receives a full box of 12 from her children. Let’s throw in a roll of chocolate tablea to make the perfect accompanying cup of hot chocolate.
The “twelve drummers drumming” symbolize the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed. For my Christmas list, instead of asking for 12 of something, I would instead like to give thanks for the 12 wonderful years Miguel and I have been living as husband and wife. This year marks our 12th wedding anniversary and I’m grateful for each year. I couldn’t ask for anything more other than a lifelong marriage.
And that wraps up my Christmas list. Now it’s time to get back to reality.
Nope, I don’t mean the endless tasks and coping with traffic, but rather, the absolute truth that we have this season of loving and giving because we are so loved and we have received the greatest gift of all.
So, relax, turn up the volume on Jose Mari Chan’s song (you know which one) and pass the plate of ensaymada, please.