The Truth About the 12 Days of Christmas

I was going through the hoards of videos my husband sent me when I stumbled upon something interesting. It was a video of a guy explaining a theory about the song…a theory about BIRDS (which caused the comment “I now hate this song even more,” from my husband). I’ll admit, he definitely has me questioning everything I thought I knew about the “12 Days of Christmas”.

As you know, the “12 Days of Christmas”  is a holiday favorite about someone receiving gifts from their true love. While I used to think the gifts included things like a partridge, gold rings, and random leaping men, I am now convinced otherwise. I discovered that every single gift is a bird. “Skylerr Byrd, I understand the partridge, turtle doves, etc. But what about the five golden rings, the maids, and so on?” I understand your confusion, but I can prove that each item is a bird.

  1. A partridge on a pear tree.
  2. Two turtle doves
  3. Three french hen
  4. Four calling (colly) birds, which is thought to be any species of black bird.
  5. Here’s where it gets interesting. Five golden rings. These rings could be referencing the ring-necked pheasant.
  6. Six laying geese.
  7. Seven swimming swans.
  8. Eight milking maids. Here are magpies. Magpies are black birds with milky white marks. Makes sense to be compared to milking maids.
  9. Nine ladies dancing. It is assumed that cranes are being referenced. The crane is one bird known for their mating dance. The bird bows and leaps in front of its potential partner, which looks a lot like dancing. Plus, their length alone makes it look more elegant.
  10. Ten leaping lords. I found different theories for this line, so I’ll just share my favorite. Grey herons are tall birds with long legs. In order to fly, herons need to leap into their air from standing. Hence, the leaping lords.
  11. Eleven piping pipers. Say that three times faster. Sandpipers makes a piping sound when taking off to fly. Don’t believe me, go look it up.
  12. Last, but not least, twelve drummers drumming. Snipes are the most commonly known for their drumming. Drumming is a sound snipes use for their courtship displays. Don’t believe me, again, go look it up.

I may not have you convinced, and that’s fine! Just know that the more I went down this rabbit hole, the more I became convinced that this is what “12 Days of Christmas” is about. I found plenty of articles and videos suggesting different birds, but the ones above were what I leaned towards.

Feel free to let me know what you think of this theory! Or, just prove me wrong. I’m fine either way.



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