Last Christmas, I laid out the “correct” way to count the Twelve Days of Christmas—if you want them to come out correctly at the end of the traditional Christmas season, Twelfth Night.
This year, I’m getting a lot of forwards of an email that explains how the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, was a secret Catholic catechism during a period of persecution. It turns out that no serious historical scholar has ever found any evidence for this. Reverend Harold Stockert came up with the idea and started spreading the rumor in 1969! While the numerical and symbolic association can easily be made, apparently it’s just a light-hearted Christmas song with no hidden meanings, after all.
It is a nice old ditty, but, like almost every Christmas song, people either love it or hate it. I’ve developed a few “rules” for the song that I try to observe whenever possible during the Christmas season:
- Avoid instrumental versions that provide all 12 verses. I don’t know why it is that instrumentalists feel a need to go beyond the one variation in the tune, the 5 golden rings. Unless specifically designed to provide accompaniment to people singing the whole song, why keep going?
- Avoid the Roger Whittaker version. My apologies to those who love this man’s work—and my beloved mother was one of them—but his version of the song drives me up a wall! It’s okay, pretty much, until the backing chorus (and let’s face it, in Christmas music, the back up singers can make or destroy a Christmas song, usually the latter) get into the dueling piping and drumming section. These people must be stopped!
- Parody versions of the song (and there are many) do not get played more than once year. ’nuff said!
I find that keeping to these basic prohibitions keeps the holidays safe and sane.