12 Days Of Christmas Meaning And Song

The 12 Days of Christmas is called Twelvetide or Christmastide, depending on the religion

I was bought up in a Church Of England home and this is my interpretation, please feel free to share your own if different in the comments


It has been celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages and has always been a time of celebrations

Christmas day is actually the first day of the 12 Days Of Christmas and the last day is January 5

Each day of the 12 Days Of Christmas has a different meaning and people celebrate a different thing on each day


The Song

Is an old English Christmas carol introduced in 1780 as part of a children’s book, believed to originally be French

It is a song of simple structure and verse, which refers to a number of elaborate gifts to celebrate the holy season


12 Days Of Christmas Meaning And Song


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 hen, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree 

Subsequent verses follow the same pattern, each adding one new gift and repeating all the earlier gifts so that each verse is one line longer than its predecessor:

4 calling birds

5 gold rings

6 geese a-laying

7 swans a-swimming

8 maids a-milking

9 ladies dancing

10 lords a-leaping

11 pipers piping

12 drummers drumming


12 Days Of Christmas Meaning And Song


Each Day Celebrates

Here are the days and why they are celebrated


Day 1

Christmas Day celebrates the Birth of Jesus Christ

Day 2

Boxing Day or St. Stephens Day as it is to celebrate Christian martyr St. Stephen

Day 3

Celebration of St John the Apostle who wrote the book of Revelation, and is the patron saint of live, loyalty, friendships and authors

Day 4

The Feast Of The Holy Innocents is the day when people remember all of the baby boys who were killed by King Herod, in his search to find and kill the Baby Jesus

Day 5

Remembrance of St Thomas Becket as he was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th Century and was murdered on December 29 1170 for challenging the King’s authority over the church.

Day 6

St. Egwin of Worcester who died 30th December, he was known as the protector of orphans and the widowed


Day 7

New Years Eve and also Pope Sylvester I is traditionally celebrated. In some eastern European countries New Year’s Eve is still traditionally called Silvester


Day 8

Mary the mother of Jesus is celebrated


Day 9

St Basil the Great and St Gregory Nazianzen 2 very important 4th century Christians


Day 10

Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus as this is the day he was named in the Holy Temple

Day 11

St Elizabeth Ann Seton the first American saint who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries


Day 12

Epiphany Eve and St John Neumann who was the first Bishop in America who lived in the 19th century

Leave me a comment below: Was the 12 days of Christmas anything you were taught or do you have a different understanding on the meaning?


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12 Days Of Christmas Meaning And Song


  1. Catherine Spencer
    04/11/2018 / 07:47

    What a lovely post, it is a shame many people don’t follow the 12 days of Christmas anymore. Even on Halloween, while trick or treating with my boys we saw Christmas lights up in peoples houses, i’m sure you will soon get fed up of dusting them.

  2. Katie
    04/11/2018 / 08:39

    A lovely post xx

  3. Janet Palmer
    04/11/2018 / 10:01

    Wow my three girls and I would love this

  4. bev
    04/11/2018 / 10:14

    I went to a Catholic school (although I’m not and never have been catholic – it was just the best school in the area, education-wise) and I was taught pretty much the same as this. However, in Pagan lore it is a little different. The main difference is the 24th of December which is the Festival of Light. the 25th is Nativity of the Invincible Sun (or returning sun, because the day is longer) and the 12th day is actually Jan 1st. The Christians changed it to Jan 6th, apparently in the hope of ending the mead-fuelled revelry of celebrating the Old Crone Goddess and the celebrations would typically last from the 29th to the 1st. Not much else is different though – a traditional pagan Yule log would be brought in and decorated, then burned – I think I prefer the modern chocolate yule log which is brought in then scoffed!

  5. Sarah kochan
    04/11/2018 / 10:34

    Love this post. So excited for Xmas. I have learnt something new as I didn’t know about the 12 days of Christmas in this way.

  6. Jackie Dawson
    04/11/2018 / 11:23

    Great post and fantastic explanation

  7. Michelle Sykes
    04/11/2018 / 18:23

    Now needing Chocolate – can’t wait for Christmas

  8. Jeanette Davenport
    04/11/2018 / 18:32

    What a wonderful post! xx

  9. Amy simpson
    05/11/2018 / 07:57

    A lovely written post x

  10. Sue H Jenkins
    05/11/2018 / 13:29

    thank you for such a detailed explanation x

  11. Sharon Freemantle
    05/11/2018 / 15:01

    Great post

  12. Colin Girvin
    05/11/2018 / 19:10

    Although I am not a religious person, I thoroughly enjoyed your explanation of the 12 days.
    I will be posting them on my Facebook each day of Christmas to enlighten all.
    Thank You

  13. Laura pyper
    06/11/2018 / 07:49

    Love the count down to Christmas

  14. Rhia
    08/11/2018 / 12:07

    Thanks for this really interesting post…. known the song forever, of course, but never really gave much thought to the meanings behind it. Really enlightening, thanks!

  15. Chloe Taylor
    08/11/2018 / 21:02

    Such a lovely blog post, I totally love Christmas! Xxx

  16. Pretorius Natasha
    09/11/2018 / 18:36

    wow! did not know this

  17. kim jackson
    09/11/2018 / 19:45

    Amazing informative read

  18. Priscilla Stubbs
    10/11/2018 / 13:40

    A fabulous blog post and lovely items. It has been interesting to read the meanings behind a song we all know so well . thank you

  19. laura milton
    10/11/2018 / 15:59

    I love this christmas song, its one we sang at school and as a famiyl growing up and it is so nice to see my kids learning at their school and so we sing it at home. It brings such a smile to my face when we all sing together it makes xmas time more special

  20. Tracy Newton
    11/11/2018 / 16:17

    Fantastic. Last year I had great fun teaching my little man the 12 days of Christmas

  21. Jean Cassell
    12/11/2018 / 07:56

    A very well researched and informative blog. A pleasure to read.

  22. Helen Tovell
    15/11/2018 / 10:00

    Lovely story and song

  23. Nikki Hayes
    15/11/2018 / 23:29

    Thanks for taking time to explain this

  24. jacqui graham
    16/11/2018 / 06:37

    you have so many lovely blog posts

  25. Jessica Willis
    17/11/2018 / 09:22

    I was aware off the 12 days of Christmas but it’s fair to say i was never really aware of the true meanings. Lovely giveaways with a range of things for everyone

  26. Dawn Fq
    18/11/2018 / 15:06

    I was raised Catholic but I was never taught about the 12 days of Christmas.

  27. Amanda Goddard
    25/11/2018 / 12:16

    I’m trying to find the perfect present’s for my teenage niece ( NOT easy ). To be honest the only thing i really love about Christmas is the music.

  28. Denise Helen Gordon
    02/12/2018 / 05:38

    Oh wow, just found your blog, love it … ! 🙂

  29. Ellen Stafford
    05/12/2018 / 23:43

    I wasn’t really taught about the 12 days of Christmas to be honest. Was interesting reading this post. Have a lovely Christmas x

  30. Laura Todd
    10/12/2018 / 16:17

    A lovely explanation thank you very much indeed.

  31. Lyn Geddes
    12/12/2018 / 08:59

    Interesting to see behind the poem and hear about its meaning. Nowadays – as a Man United supporter- I tend to sing the 12 days of Cantona!

  32. Vanessa EARLE
    14/12/2018 / 09:00

    I love this. I always wondered when the 12 Days Of Christmas started and now I know. 💕🎅

  33. 15/12/2018 / 08:34

    Love the 12 days of Christmas so many blog items and learned so much – thank yoy

  34. lorraine kirk
    15/12/2018 / 14:57

    Thanks! Also, interesting info from Bev!!

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