Well, I’ll be.
For the longest time, I thought "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was a song from the Elizabethan era that contained seemingly secular symbols used by English Catholics to teach their children the Faith during a time of great persecution.
Boy, was I wrong. According to Sister Carol Gaeke, O.P., I wasn’t nearly perceptive enough. Thankfully, she sets the record straight in a December 15 editorial in Cincinnati’s Catholic Telegraph.
For instance, I had always thought that the "partridge in a pear tree" was Christ. Had I looked deeper, I would have discovered a "gold mine" beneath the pear tree "signifying the precious minerals of our planet."
In my benighted understanding of things, the "eight maids a’milking" represented the beatitudes. It’s not as simple as that. As it turns out, the cows being milked are "symbols of our earth that needs to be tended and nurtured, not used up and destroyed by greed."
What’s more, had I looked "beyond the surface gaety" of these symbols I would have discovered they form a puzzle, along the border of which are "global warfare, nuclear weapons, domestic violence, sexual, class and racial violence."
Well actually Rich and the Nun are both wrong. The Twelve Days of Christmas was not a secret catechism song that Catholics used because of Anglican oppression. For one thing as the snopes article points out the origin of the song is probably French in the first place and second the items that supposedly had to be hidden are common to both Catholics and Anglicans in the first place.
Though I much prefer the Elizabethan urban legend to the politically correct version that says things like "Those three French hens in the tree have come from afar, like immigrants seeking to build a safe shelter in this wonderful place, far from horrendous war or grinding poverty that they have fled." Now I can easily believe that French hens would be running away from war. Besides things like the five golden rings obviously refer to the Olympics – duh.