Christmas Songs Over-Analyzed: The Twelve Days of Christmas

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by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

in Christmas, Songs Overanalyzed

There are very few things I do well in this world. Over-analyzing the lyrics of classic Christmas songs is not one of them, but I try.

Feel free to re-visit the growing catalog of Christmas Songs Over-Analyzed below, or skip right to this year’s edition.

Like last year’s song, The Twelve Days of Christmas has been recorded by many artists over the years. Many a website exists dedicated to deciphering the mystery of the song’s lyrics, but it’s way more fun to just break them down irresponsibly.

The lyrics were first published in 1780, which means over-analyzing them today as if they were targeted at a modern audience is kind of like chastising Atari for its shitty graphics, but whatever. You’re here for a laugh, so let’s at least make fun of the weird things that passed for Christmas gifts two hundred years ago.

Formatting note: a lot of the “over-analysis” here comes in the form of the giver’s internal dialogue and the rationale behind the 12 days of gifts. I really tried to get into this “true love” person’s head. I think I nailed it.


 

On the First day of Christmas my true love sent to me
a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

True love SENT to me. Key word. Right off the bat we know this is a long-distance relationship. Grr, those suck, mainly because no sex. Yuck. Oh well, here’s a bird to make you think of your darling. Oh and the tree too, presumably because he or she did not want to disturb the bird? Hope you have a yard.

Hang on- maybe the TREE is the gift! Anyone ever consider that? I bet it went down like this:

FIRST DAY RATIONALE: “My honey LOVES some pears, I shall send her this baller pear tree so she thinks of me every day when she eats the delicious fruit of its branches. And this bird appears to be squatting in my thoughtful gift so I’ll just send the whole thing and pretend like the bird adds to its charm. Christmas is DONE.”

On the Second day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

SECOND DAY RATIONALE: “I’ve been thinking. What if she doesn’t get that whole ‘pear tree’ thing? Just because she ate all the pear pieces when we shared that Del Monte fruit cocktail (just pretend) doesn’t necessarily mean she loves pears. What if she thought they were apples? What if she was trying to scoop out the cherry and has terrible spoon control? What if she’s color blind and she thought she was picking out the peaches? DAMMIT the pear tree was a terrible gift. But I bet she loved the bird regardless. That’s it! More birds! What better to symbolize our love than a romantic couple of doves, cooing and nuzzling each other as they whistle their amorous tune? Better include another partridge and another pear tree in case the first shipment went missing.”

On the Third day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

THIRD DAY RATIONALE: “What if the birds are not in the mood for romance when she receives them, but are rather in the mood for shitting on her carpet? Drat! Hmm.. what gift says ‘passion’ but is also a bird? Something French. A french hen! I’ll send three to be safe.”

On the Fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

FOURTH DAY RATIONALE: “OK, a bunch of birds and a fruit tree is kind of a crap Christmas, especially if I’m not there to explain it. And what if she reads too deeply into the number of French Hens and thinks I want to bring a third lover into our relationship? Dammit. Sending more birds.”

Let’s stop for a second and tally this up: So far this is just a massive amount of birds for Christmas. Birds as gifts, and a very impractical means of housing the birds especially if the intent is for the receiver to be able to keep the birds indefinitely. They’re just going to fly out of a tree. Ten birds sent, and no cage. Brilliant. Fix this.

On the Fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Five Golden Rings,
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

WHOA overcompensate much? You could have fixed this whole bird mess with ONE high-end piece of jewelry, but you sent FIVE rings? Wait- are you guessing at her size?

FIFTH DAY RATIONALE: “Honey, I love you but I’m a really shitty judge of hand size. Here’s one each in size small, medium, large, extra large, and Goofy. Please do return the four that do not fit. Gift receipt enclosed. Please accept this as an apology for all of the birds.”

On the Sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Six Geese ‘a Laying,
Five Golden Rings (four of which I hope you’ll return),
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

SIXTH DAY RATIONALE: “Sweet love, I have now sent six days worth of gifts yet I’ve heard nothing in return. I fear I may have vastly underestimated the number of birds it would take to make you happy. Please accept six more birds, larger than those previous, in addition to yet another pear tree. I hope this shipment finds you well, and I trust you will keep only the golden ring that fits you best.”

On the Seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Seven Swans ‘a Swimming,
Six Geese ‘a Laying,
Five Golden Rings (four of which I hope you’ll return),
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

SEVENTH DAY RATIONALE:“I’m tired honey. I know you’re tired. Let’s just end this madness and call it a holiday. Please accept these swans as my sincere apology for sending you so many birds. I hope you’re following the proper care instructions and tending to the eggs the geese have laid. How are things?”

On the Eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eight Maids ‘a Milking,
Seven Swans ‘a Swimming,
Six Geese ‘a Laying,
Five Golden Rings (four of which I hope you’ll return),
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

“How about the rings? Any winners in there? I trust any one of the fine maids I’ve sent you would be happy to return the other four rings if you’re too busy tending to the birds. Four more days! Are we still getting together for Christmas?”

On the Ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Nine Ladies Dancing,
Eight Maids ‘a Milking,
Seven Swans ‘a Swimming,
Six Geese ‘a Laying,
Five Golden Rings (four of which I hope you’ll return),
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

“Dance party!! And MMMM, how about those pears, huh? I bet they are delicious! Nothing like the crisp taste of fresh fruit. Are we cool?”

On the Tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Ten Lords a’ Leaping,
Nine Ladies Dancing,
Eight Maids ‘a Milking,
Seven Swans ‘a Swimming,
Six Geese ‘a Laying,
Five Golden Rings (four of which I hope you’ll return),
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

“Jenny said she saw you at Pizza Hut with Scott. I hope these folks’ respective milking, dancing and leaping efforts have not gone to waste. And who is caring for the birds in your absence?”

On the Eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eleven Pipers Piping,
Ten Lords a’ Leaping,
Nine Ladies Dancing,
Eight Maids ‘a Milking,
Seven Swans ‘a Swimming,
Six Geese ‘a Laying,
Five Golden Rings (four of which I hope you’ll return),
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

“These pipers pipe a song of love for you. Consider this my grand gesture. I’m John Cusack and these eleven pipers are my boom box.”

On the Twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Twelve Drummers Drumming,
Eleven Pipers Piping,
Ten Lords a’ Leaping,
Nine Ladies Dancing,
Eight Maids ‘a Milking,
Seven Swans ‘a Swimming,
Six Geese ‘a Laying,
Five Golden Rings (four of which I hope you’ll return),
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

“Nothin’, huh? Fine then. I hope the drummers keep you and “Scott” up all night.”

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