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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The 12 Days Of Christmas

Now that today is December 13, it's just dawned on me that there's only 12 days left until Christmas...the perfect day to bring up today's blog topic.

Have you ever heard of the holiday classic 'The 12 Days Of Christmas'?

I'm sure that you all have, considering that there have been so many recordings of the song over the number of years that it has existed.

But, do you know the story behind how it all began?

I did a little bit of research behind why this song was created, and what the possible meaning of the song could be.

I mean, let's face it. Listening to the lyrics of the song, it's a bit of a trainwreck in itself. By the twelfth day of Christmas, you have some of the most bizarre Christmas gifts ever. It'd be like even weirder than getting a Snuggie in every possible colour and pattern underneath the tree.

Let's see...on the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
10 Lords-A-Leaping
9 Ladies Dancing
8 Maids-A-Milking
7 Swans-A-Swimming
6 Geese-A-Laying
5 Golden Rings
4 Calling (or Colly) Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves

And a partridge in a pear tree.

(And yes, the photo was photoshopped by yours truly. A kind of an elementary job at that, but at least the thought was behind it.)

The point is, can you imagine having your significant other giving you all of these gifts? I mean, let's take a look at this. What kind of lover would appreciate getting a gift of twenty-three birds? Unless they work at a zoo or a bird sanctuary, I'm guessing not many.

And, with eight maids a milking and nine ladies dancing, what the hell kind of a relationship is this? Clearly one that's very open! I mean, what, if the man is busy with the maids and the dancing ladies, the woman goes after the lords, pipers, and drummers?

Heck, why not throw a whole bunch of long stemmed roses in the middle of it all and then we could have a Christmas themed version of The Bachelor! And with five golden rings to choose from, at least five will get some form of a proposal!

Yeah, I don't think that anybody will be giving gifts like these to their loved ones anytime soon, nor should they...unless their lover has a fetish for feathered friends. Though I did read an old Archie comic that had Archie giving Veronica all of these presents with help from Sabrina...and if I remember it correctly, I don't think it worked out all that great.

But apparently these Christmas gifts were in vogue circa the late-1700s. That's approximately the time in which this song was written. 1780, to be exact. Or at least that's what Wikipedia tells me. And we all know how 'reliable' Wikipedia is as a research aid. Alas, it's all I got, so I'm going to go with it.

If you're interested, a man by the name of Dennis Bratcher wrote this piece on the 12 Days Of Christmas, and a lot of the information that I've used for this piece comes from this page, so do take a look at it by clicking on here.

Although the actual origins of how the song came to be written are unknown (and will likely remain that way, since the song is over two hundred years old), but likely theories suggest that it was originally began as a 'memories and forfeits' game, where a leader recited a verse, and then the other people in the group would add verses to the original verse, and so on.

Even the country of origin is up for debate. While many seem to belief that the song was English in nature, there are some texts that suggest that the song might have originated in France. Whatever the case, the song was introduced in the United States around 1910, as a schoolteacher named Emily Brown brought it back to America for use in a school Christmas pageant.

The real meaning behind 'The 12 Days Of Christmas' is also debated. Some don't think that the song has any meaning whatsoever, while others have come up with conflicting theories.

The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes has said that there have been suggestions made that the gifts represent something significant, possibly representing the food or sport of one of the months of the year. Others state that the meanings of the lyrics are purely Christian themed, although this hasn't exactly been proven as right or wrong. In some versions, the lines after eight maids-a-milking have been flipped around and reordered.

Below though is a list of the items of the song as compared to Christian interpretations though, just in case you were wondering.

A partridge in a pear tree = Jesus
Two turtle doves = The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens = The Three Kings Of Orient
Four calling birds = The Four Gospels
Five golden rings = The Torah or the Pentateuch
Six geese-a-laying = The six days of Creation
Seven swans-a-swimming = Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids-a-milking = The eight Beatitudes
Nine ladies dancing = Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords-a-leaping = The Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers piping = The Eleven Faithful Apostles
Twelve drummers drumming = The twelve points of the Apostles' Creed

TRIVIA: If one were to purchase all of these items for Christmas 2011 for your true love, it'll set you back about $24,300!

Now, just because this blog post is titled the 12 Days Of Christmas, I'll post a traditional version for all of you to enjoy. Here's Burl Ives singing the classic from 1951.

But, I like the versions that are sort of non-traditional best, just because it makes the song more fun.

I mean, check out this 1979 version of the song by John Denver and some special friends.

Now, keep in mind that when the song was pressed onto album format from the holiday special, some of the Muppets sang different lines. For instance, Beeker doesn't even show up on the Muppets special, but has a line in the album version.

And then there's a few versions of the song that have sort of bastardized the classic carol into something humourous and comedy filled.

Artists after my own heart.

One example of this was released the same year I was born. In 1981, SCTV was quite a popular show in Canada, and cast members Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas decided to release a Christmas song singing as the characters that they were most known for on that series.

From November 1981, I present to you Bob and Doug McKenzie's 12 Days Of Christmas, courtesy of YouTube!

For the record, a beer in a tree sounds mighty good right about now.

About six years later, radio personality (and personal idol of mine) Bob Rivers released an album known by the title of 'Twisted Christmas', which parodied a whole bunch of Christmas carols from 'Deck The Halls' to 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'. And yes, he did a version of 12 Days Of Christmas...

...only his was called the 12 PAINS of Christmas. From the 1987/88 holiday season, here it is in all its glory.

I can't think of a better way to glamourize the materialistic hoopla the season seems to bring, can you?

One final example that I'll talk about was released in 1995 by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who you may know from his 'you might be a redneck' comedy act. Well, he managed to take that one step further and released it in song format that year.

As you can see, there's many different interpretations of the song from the traditional to the just plain bizarre. I ask all of you, which ones are your favourite?

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