In celebration of my new book, The Twelve Days of Christmas, I'm going to be blogging every day from now until Christmas Eve, sharing all kinds of interesting snippets of Christmas lore and tradition.
And what better place to start than the song on which the book is based. The Twelve Days of Christmas originally came from France, and all of the first days have to do with good things to eat.
So the song words are really "A partridge, a perdrix."
The two turtle doves are not lovebirds, but again birds that are good to eat at a Christmas feast.
As are three French hens.
And the four calling birds... are really colly birds, which is another word for blackbirds. And as we know they used to be baked in pies, according to the nursery rhyme.
And the gold rings? No, not things you'd wear on your fingers but ring-necked pheasants. And then follow the geese and the swans...
So the first half of the song is all about killing fowls for the Christmas feast.
You have to remember that in days of yore the normal diet of most people was very plain, very little meat, often hungry. So Christmas was one of the few times of the year when they would pull out all the stops and feast for several days.
You'll notice there is no turkey in the song. Turkeys are New World birds and hadn't been discovered when the song was first composed.
More interesting Christmas trivia tomorrow....