The Twelve Days of Christmas

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Ahnnae Mccullough

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a classic Christmas carol. 

The twelve days referenced in the song are tied to Christianity. It refers to the 12 days following Christmas, known as Twelvetide. The period begins with the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th and ends with the coming of the three wise men on January 6th.

The first printed version of the song was published in 1780 in an English children’s book titled “Mirth With-out Mischief”. In this version the “four calling birds” were “four colly birds” and the “partridge” was a “very pretty peacock upon a pear tree”. In 1909 the British composer, Frederic Austin changed the lyrics and created the version of the song that is popular today.

According to historians, this song started as a memory game that was popular among British school children. They would repeat all of the previous lyrics, as well as the next one to win. If they couldn’t remember a verse, they owed their opponent a kiss or a piece of candy. 

Over the years many parodies of this carol have been released, including heavy metal and comedic versions. In 2020, Chris Mann released a parody “The Twelve Days of Quarantine”. It has also been covered by artists like Pentatonix, a popular acapella group.