Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas - a Perfect Gift List?

Traditionally since medieval times, Christmas in the UK was celebrated over 12 days starting on Christmas Day - the 25th of December, and finishing on the eve of Epiphany on January 5th.  The period celebrates the time between the birth of the baby Jesus to the coming of the Three Wise Men, who brought lavish gifts to the infant king.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Gift List
The traditional carol - The 12 Days of Christmas - was first written down in the 1700s but dates from earlier times and may originally have come from France. There are many origin and hidden meaning stories but there is no evidence that it is anything more than an amusing memory game or rounds song - as this article on Snopes explores.

The carol celebrates a time of dancing and music and, of course, gift giving, with a different gift being sent to the giver's true love on each of the 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 sent to me: Two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.
On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: Three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

and so on... 

I have to say, it was quite an impressive gift list. Not sure I'd want all those swans, lords and ladies in my house at the same time though. And the pipers and drummers would get kind of noisy.

Today we still give gifts to our loved ones at Christmas, and as those of us with young children will testify, some of the gift wish lists can be as fanciful as the Twelve Days one! 

If you are going through your Christmas gift lists, you may want to check out the fantastic handmade gifts showcased on Craftfest. Here are some of my favourites - which have been inspired by some of the Twelve Days of Christmas gift ideas.

Some say the first 7 gifts are all about birds. The partridge, turtle doves, geese and swans are easy enough to visualise. And hens, sure - although perhaps French hens were fancy ones with gallic charm! But what about gifts number 4 and 5? The four calling birds is likely to mean black birds, as the original word was colly, an old regional English term for black. And the five golden rings may relate to ringed necked birds, possibly pheasants. All of these birds would have been welcome edible gifts at Christmas.  No sign of a turkey in the song though - that's a rather more recent festive fare! 


  1. Fabulous blog post Sharon
    Thank you
    Joy xx

  2. lovely blog post

    I will have to try and get something written on my blog :-)

    Kate x

  3. Thanks Joy and Kate - I really had fun doing this one. The whole Craftfest series will have a Christmas tradition theme.....

  4. Great post and thank you from Juesaics

  5. That's wonderful Joy. I loved reading through your link. It is nice to know the origins of things isn't it?
    Lynne x (Silver Sensations)