There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans and, especially, the partridge who won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas? This week, I found out. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
- Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
- Three French hens stood for faith, hope and charity.
- Four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
- Five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
- Six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
- Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit – Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership & Mercy.
- Eight maids a-milking were the eight Beatitudes.
- Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness & Self Control.
- Ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
- Eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
- The twelve drummers drumming symbolised the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
So there is your history for today and it reminds me of a very old Elvis Presley song or, if you are as old as me, you may remember Tex Ritter sung it before Elvis. This is how it goes (more spoken than sung):
During the North African campaign a bunch of soldier boys had been on a long hike and they arrived in a little town called Cassino. The next day being Sunday, several of the boys went to church. After the chaplain had read the prayer the text was taken up. Those of the boys who had a prayer book took them out but this one boy had only a deck of cards and so he spread them out. The Sergeant who commanded the boys saw the cards and said, “Soldier put away those cards.” After the service was over, the soldier was taken prisoner and brought before the provost marshal.
The Marshal said, “Sergeant, why have you brought the man here?” He replied “For playing cards in church, Sir.” The Marshall asked “And what have you got to say for yourself, son?” and the soldier replied: “Much, Sir” . The Marshall said, “I hope so for, if not, I shall punish you more than any man was ever punished.” The soldier said, “Sir, I’ve been on the march for about six days, I had neither Bible nor prayer book but I hope to satisfy you, Sir, with the purity of my intentions.” With that, the boy started his story:
You see Sir, when I look at the “ACE”, it reminds me that there is but one God;
And the “DEUCE” reminds me that the Bible is divided into two parts; The Old and the New Testaments
And when I see the “THREE”, I think of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost
And when I see the “FOUR”, I think of the four Evangelists who preached the Gospel. There was Matthew, Mark, Luke & John
And when I see the “FIVE”, it reminds me of the five wise virgins who trimmed their lamps. There were ten of them, five were wise and were saved. Five were foolish and were shut out
And when I see the “SIX”, it reminds me that, in six days, God made this great heaven and earth;
When I see the “SEVEN”, it reminds me that on the seventh day, God rested from His great work;
And when I see the “EIGHT”, I think of the eight righteous persons God saved when He destroyed this earth. There was Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives
And when I see the “NINE”, I think of the lepers our Saviour cleansed and nine out of the ten didn’t even thank Him
When I see the “TEN”, I think of the Ten Commandments God handed down to Moses on a table of stone
When I see the “KING”, it reminds me that there is but one King of Heaven, God Almighty
And when I see the “QUEEN” I think of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is Queen of Heaven
And the “JACK” or “KNAVE” is the Devil
When I count the number of spots on a deck of cards, I find 365, the number of days in a year. There’s 52 cards, the number of weeks in a year. There’s 4 suits, the number of weeks in a month. There’s 12 picture cards, the number of months in a year. There’s 13 tricks, the number of weeks in a quarter.
So you see, Sir, my pack of cards serves me as a Bible, Almanac and Prayer Book.
Have a Happy New Year!