Of all the presents you could have found under the tree today, I’m sure a pair of turtle doves wasn’t exactly at the top of your list. I mean really, they’re birds. They probably sing at all hours. I bet they make lots of little bird droppings. And since there’s a pair, that means there will probably be more turtle doves in the near future. Who gives a gift like that? And why on earth do we sing a song full of ridiculous gifts like turtle doves and pipers piping?
Actually, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” isn’t just a song about terrible gift giving; it’s a song that describes our Christian faith allegorically so that people in the Middle Ages (who were, by and large, illiterate) could receive some catechetical instruction. The “true love” who gives all these gifts? That’s God. The Partridge in a Pear tree? That would be Jesus Christ. And those pesky Turtle Doves? You’ll have to check back in tomorrow to find out! We here at the Newman Center are big fans of celebrating the Liturgical Year, and that means feasting on all twelve days of the feast of Christmas! We’re even keeping the party going until Candlemas on February 2nd. (What can I say? Liturgical party animals.) So over the next twelve days, I’ll be posting a description of each gift for each day of Christmas, along with a suggestion on ways to celebrate it! Merry Christmas!
“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree….”
The Partridge in a Pear Tree represents Jesus Christ, our first and greatest gift on Christmas. With all the traditions and excitement around Christmas, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about it as just as celebration of Jesus’ birthday. That may be true, but it’s so much more than that: it’s the celebration of God coming down to earth in human form, humbling himself and preparing to die the cruelest death possible all for the purpose of reuniting His people to Himself. It’s a celebration of God’s Incarnation for our sake. It’s a celebration of the Light of the World stepping down from heaven into our sphere (that’s why it’s placed only a few days after the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere). And that is certainly worth celebrating.