The Twelve Days of Christmas
On the first day of Christmas,
On the second day of Christmas,
On the third day of Christmas,
On the fourth day of Christmas,
On the fifth day of Christmas,
On the sixth day of Christmas,
On the seventh day of Christmas,
On the eighth day of Christmas,
On the ninth day of Christmas,
On the tenth day of Christmas,
On the eleventh day of Christmas,
On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Background / History of the Song
The Twelve Days of Christmas is a traditional English Christmas carol that dates back to the late 18th century, although its origins may stretch further back in time. The song enumerates a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas, starting on Christmas Day and ending on the Epiphany (January 6th).
The first printed version of the song was published in English in 1780, without music, in a book intended for children, called "Mirth without Mischief." Its melody has been attributed to several sources, but one of the most popular is an arrangement by Frederic Austin in 1909, which established the tune now familiar to contemporary audiences.
The song is typically performed in a cumulative format, meaning each verse is built on top of the previous ones, increasing the number of gifts with each day. The specific items given in the song have varied slightly in different historical versions, but the version most familiar today includes partridges, turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, golden rings, geese a-laying, swans a-swimming, maids a-milking, ladies dancing, lords a-leaping, pipers piping, and drummers drumming.
Despite popular myth, it's unlikely that The Twelve Days of Christmas was created as a coded reference for Catholic teachings. This idea surfaced in the 20th century and suggested that each gift was a secret symbol for a religious truth, but most historians and musicologists consider this theory to be folklore rather than fact.
Regardless of its exact origins, The Twelve Days of Christmas has become a classic holiday carol, enjoyed by millions around the world during the festive season for its cheerful melody and playful, escalating lyrics.