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Twelve Days of Christmas
Not just a delightful (or perhaps
annoying) rhyme set to music, this song has a serious foundation in
history. The song, first published in England in 1780 without music as a
chant or rhyme, is thought to be French in origin. Catholics in England
during the years 1558 until 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated
Catholics, were prohibited from any public or private practice of their
faith by law. The song in question was a "Catechism Song", intended to
help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith - a memory aid. The
song teaches the tenets by associating each with a number, 1-12, as
follows: 12 Drummers Drumming: the twelve points of doctrine in the
Apostle's creed. 11 Pipers Piping: the eleven Apostles. 10
Lords-A-Leaping: the ten Commandments. 9 Ladies Dancing: the nine fruits
of the Holy Spirit. 8 Maids-A-Milking: the eight Beatitudes. 7
Swans-A-Swimming: the seven Sacraments. 6 Geese-A-laying: the six days
of Creation. 5 Golden Rings: the first five Books of the old Testament,
the "Pentateuch". 4 Calling Birds: the four Gospels. 3 French Hens:
Faith, Hope & Charity, the three Virtues. 2 Turtle Doves: the Old and
New Testaments. 1 Partridge in a Pear Tree: Christ. And who is "My true
Love"? that would be God Himself. And so, it seems, the longest carol
also has a significant history to it.
Twelve thank-you notes of Christmas
wonderful surprise has just greeted me! That sweet partridge, in
that lovely little pear-tree; what an enchanting, romantic,
and thank you.
turtle-doves arrived this morning, and are cooing away in
pear-tree as I write. I'm so touched and grateful!
love, as always,
You do think
of the most original presents! Who ever thought of sending
anybody three French hens? Do they really come all the way from
France? It's a pity we have no chicken coops, but I expect we'll
thank you so much; they are lovely.
surprise! Four calling birds arrived this morning. They are very
sweet, even if they do call rather loudly, they make telephoning
almost impossible - but I expect they'll calm down when they get
used to their new home. Anyway, I'm very grateful, of course I
has just delivered five most beautiful gold rings, one for each
finger, and all fitting perfectly! A really lovely present!
Lovelier, in a way, than birds, which do take rather a lot of
looking after. The four that arrived yesterday are still making
a terrible row, and I'm afraid none of us got much sleep last
night. Mother says she wants to use the rings to "wring" their
necks. Mother has such a sense of humor. This time she's only
joking, I think, but I do know what she means.
love the rings.
expected to find when I opened the front door this morning, it
certainly wasn't six socking great geese laying eggs all over
the porch. Frankly, I rather hoped that you had stopped sending
me birds. We have no room for them, and they've already ruined
the croquet lawn. I know you meant well, but let's call a halt,
I thought I
said NO MORE BIRDS. This morning I woke up to find no more than
seven swans, all trying to get into our tiny goldfish pond. I'd
rather not think what's happened to the goldfish. The whole
house seems to be full of birds, to say nothing of what they
leave behind them, so please, please, stop!
prefer the birds. What am I to do with eight milkmaids? And
their cows! Is this some kind of a joke? If so, I'm afraid I
don't find it very amusing.
gone far enough. You say you're sending me nine ladies dancing.
All I can say is, judging from the way they dance, they're
certainly not ladies. The village just isn't accustomed to
seeing a regiment of shameless viragos, with nothing on but
their lipstick, cavorting round the green, and it's Mother and I
who get the blame. If you value our friendship, which I do (less
and less), kindly stop this ridiculous behavior at once!
As I write this
letter, ten disgusting old men are prancing up and down all over
what used to be the garden, before the geese and the swans and
the cows got at it. And several of them, I have just noticed,
are taking inexcusable liberties with the milkmaids. Meanwhile
the neighbors are trying to have us evicted. I shall never speak
to you again.
This is the
last straw! You know I detest bagpipes! The place has now become
something between a menagerie and a madhouse, and a man from the
council has just declared it unfit for habitation. At least
Mother has been spared this last outrage; they took her away
yesterday afternoon in an ambulance to a home for the
bewildered. I hope you're satisfied.
Our client, Miss Emily Wilbraham, instructs me to inform you
that with the arrival on her premises at 7:30 this morning of
the entire percussion section of the London Symphony Orchestra,
and several of their friends, she has no course left open to her
but to seek an injunction to prevent you importuning her
further. I am making arrangements for the return of much
I am, Sir, yours faithfully,