It is Church tradition that the 12 days of Christmas song originated in England during the 16th century persecution of Catholics. The song was developed to help children in particular remember certain important tenants of the faith. The True Love referred to in the song is the True Love that is GOD. The 12 days of Christmas, in most liturgical calendars, starts on Christmas day and runs through January 5th. It leads up to the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord on January 6th.
On the first day of Christmas my true Love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree.
This is Jesus Christ whose birthday is the first day of Christmas. He is like a partridge who tries to protect its young from predators. He expressed His sadness for the fate of Jerusalem in Luke's gospel. "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say: Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!"
On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Two Turtle Doves
This is a reference to the Old and New Testaments. Both are God's revelation to us through history and creation. The story of His people is the story of God to the world.
On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Three French Hens
In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13) This of course is the three theological virtues.
On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Four Calling Birds
What else are there four of in the Bible but the four Gospels. They proclaim the Good News of Jesus, God Incarnate, coming into the world.
On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Five Gold Rings
There are five books in the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They give the history of the beginning of the world, the creation of man as a reflection of God, of man's relationship with God, the failure of original sin, the promise of a saviour, and the selection of a people through whom salvation would come.
On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Six Geese A-laying
This is a reference to the six days of creation in Genesis chapter one. God's power, majesty, and goodness can still be seen in the beauty of His creation.
On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Seven Swans A-swimming
The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord, and fortitude (or courage).
"Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the official be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully." (Romans 12: 6-8)
On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eight Maids A-milking
The eight Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the pure in heart, Blessed are the peacemakers, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)
On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Nine Ladies Dancing
"What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness [some translations say faithfulness], gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22) This is the traditional list of nine of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Ten Lords A-leaping
The Ten Commandments:
I. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me!
II. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain!
III. Remember to keep holy the LORD'S Day!
IV. Honor your father and your mother!
V. You shall not kill!
VI. You shall not commit adultery!
VII. You shall not steal!
VIII. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor!
IX. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife!
X. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods!
On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Eleven Pipers Piping
The eleven Faithful Apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the less, Simon the Zealot, Judas known as Thaddeus. (Luke 6:14-16).
On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Twelve Drummers Drumming
This is for the 12 points of the Apostle's Creed: (1)I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. (2) I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, (3) who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, (4) suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. (5) On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and (6) he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
(7)I believe in the Holy Spirit, (8)the holy catholic church, (9) the communion of saints, (10) the forgiveness of sins, (11) the resurrection of the body, and (12) the life everlasting. AMEN.