The Feast of The Epiphany

Parish Life – Catholic News Agency

The Feast of the Epiphany, traditionally recognized on January 6th, is the day that the Magi or Three Wise Men visited the Christ Child and marks the end of the holiday season, thus bringing a close to the Twelve Days of Christmas. The well-known English Carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas, was written during the era when Roman Catholics were not permitted to practice their faith openly in England. The carol was intended as a catechism song for young Catholics exposing an element of hidden meaning or a code word easily recognizable by children.

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The “true love” one hears in the song is not a smitten love between a boyfriend and girlfriend, but Jesus Christ, because true Love was born on Christmas Day. The partridge in the pear tree also represents Jesus because the bird is willing to sacrifice its life if necessary to protect its young by feigning injury to draw away predators. Here is the meaning of the rest of the song:

  • The two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments.
  • The three French hens signify faith, hope, and love.
  • The four calling birds are the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
  • The five golden rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament, which describe man’s fall into sin and the great love of God in promising a Savior.
  • The six geese a-laying signify the six days of creation.
  • Seven swans a-swimming are the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit – Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
  • The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
  • Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit – Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience (Forbearance), Goodness (Kindness), Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continency (Chastity)
  • The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
  • The eleven pipers piping are the eleven faithful Apostles.
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of belief In The Apostles’ Creed.

Oh God, who by the leading of a star, manifested Your only Son to the people of the earth. Lead us, who know You now by faith, to Your presence, where we may see Your glory face to face, through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.