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Posts Tagged ‘christmas carol’

The History Behind “The 12 Days Of Christmas”

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled us. What in the
world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially
the partridge who won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with
Christmas?

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to
practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol
as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning:
the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of
their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a
religious reality, which the children could remember.

1. The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
2. Two turtledoves were the Old and New Testaments
3. Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
4. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark,Luke
& John.
5. The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five
books of the Old Testament.
6. The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
7. Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy
Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution,
Leadership, and Mercy.
8. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
9. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love,
Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness,
and Self Control.
10. The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
11. The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
12. The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of
belief in The Apostles’ Creed.

This is how that lovely but strange song became a Christmas Carol…

The Christmas Carol

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – When World War I erupted in 1914 launching the
first great European war of the 20th century, soldiers on both sides
were assured they would be home by Christmas to celebrate victory.
That prediction proved to be false.

The men on the fronts did not get home for Christmas as the war
dragged on for four years. During that time 8.5 million men were
killed, with hundreds of thousands more injured. The "war to end all
wars" took a horrific human toll and transformed Europe. However, on
Christmas Eve in December 1914 one of the most unusual events in
military history took place on the Western front.

On the night of Dec. 24 the weather abruptly became cold, freezing the
water and slush of the trenches in which the men bunkered. On the
German side, soldiers began lighting candles. British sentries
reported to commanding officers there seemed to be small lights raised
on poles or bayonets.

Although these lanterns clearly illuminated German troops, making them
vulnerable to being shot, the British held their fire. Even more
amazing, British officers saw through their binoculars that some enemy
troops were holding Christmas trees over their heads with lighted
candles in their branches. The message was clear: Germans, who
celebrated Christmas on the eve of Dec. 24, were extending holiday
greetings to their enemies.

Within moments of that sighting, the British began hearing a few
German soldiers singing a Christmas carol. It was soon picked up all
along the German line as other soldiers joined in harmonizing.

The words heard were these: "Stille nacht, heilige nacht." British
troops immediately recognized the melody as "Silent Night" quickly
neutralized all hostilities on both sides. One by one, British and
German soldiers began laying down their weapons to venture into no-
man’s-land, a small patch of bombed-out earth between the two sides.
So many soldiers on both sides ventured out that superior officers
were prevented from objecting. There was an undeclared truce and peace
had broken out.

Frank Richards was an eyewitness of this unofficial truce. In his
wartime diary he wrote: "We stuck up a board with ‘Merry Christmas’ on
it. The enemy stuck up a similar one. Two of our men threw off their
equipment and jumped on the parapet with their hands above their heads
as two of the Germans did the same, our two going to meet them.

"They shook hands and then we all got out of the trench and so did the
Germans," Richards said. Richards also explained that some German
soldiers spoke perfect English with one saying how fed up he was with
the war and how he would be glad when it was all over. His British
counterpart agreed.

That night, former enemy soldiers sat around a common campfire. They
exchanged small gifts from their meager belongings – chocolate bars,
buttons, badges and small tins of processed beef. Men who only hours
earlier had been shooting to kill were now sharing Christmas
festivities and showing each other family snapshots. The truce ended
just as it had begun, by mutual agreement.

Captain C.I. Stockwell of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers recalled how,
after a truly "Silent Night," he fired three shots into the air at
8:30 a.m. December 26 and then stepped up onto the trench bank. A
German officer who had exchanged gifts with Captain Stockwell the
previous night also appeared on a trench bank. They bowed, saluted and
climbed back into their trenches. A few minutes later, Captain
Stockwell heard the German officer fire two shots into the air.

The war was on again.