12 Days of Christmas

Day 12 of 12 Days of Christmas: Twelve drummers drumming

Stamina is the force that drives the drumming; it’s not really a sprint. – Neil Peart

Drums all have their own particulars – each drum has a place where they sound the best – where they ring out and resonate the best, and the head surface isn’t too loose or too tight, mainly so you get a good rebound off of the head. —  Chad Smith



Today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas, 5 January. We have reached the end of the Christmas festival, and tomorrow we celebrate the Epiphany.
     The Twelfth Night parties in the middle ages could be quite rowdy. It was the Feast of Fools in which the order of the world was turned upside down, with fools reigning as kings and people taking on roles that were contrary to their true character. Shakespeare used this night as the setting for his play, Twelfth Night, in which he gives us a picture of such a topsy-turvy world as Viola masquerades as a man, people fall in love across class lines, and the lowly indulge in ridiculous delusions of grandeur.
     It would be foolhardy to deny the Christian significance of all this. By the time the Wise Men arrive in Bethlehem, the Holy Family is living in neither a stable nor in an inn, but in a house. They find the King they have been searching for, but he is not living in a palace. The mediaeval Feast of Fools reminds us that Christmas celebrates nothing less than a world turned upside down in which God becomes man in order that man might become divine.
     The Twelfth Day of Christmas is 5 January, and our celebrations of Christmas traditionally end tonight, on the Twelfth Night, which is then followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. The Twelve Days of Christmas are a festive period linking together these two Great Feasts of the Nativity and Theophany, so that one celebration leads into another.— Patrick Comerford


Prices in the service economy also jumped in 2022, reflected in the cost of the performance-based gifts at the back half of True Love’s shopping list. Wage and labor cost growth drove prices higher for the Nine Ladies Dancing ($8,308.12), Eleven Pipers Piping ($3,021.40) and Twelve Drummers Drumming ($3,266.93.) The Ten Lords-a-Leaping – priced on the cost of hiring a ballet company – grew an astounding 24 percent year over year to $13,980, supplanting the swans as the most expensive single gift in the index. — PNC, full article: https://www.pnc.com/insights/our-commitments/customers/pnc-s-christmas-price-index–soars-for-true-loves.html


Some historians think the song could be French in origin, but most agree it was designed as a “memory and forfeits” game, in which singers tested their recall of the lyrics and had to award their opponents a “forfeit” — a kiss or a favor of some kind — if they made a mistake. — vox.com, full article: https://www.vox.com/21796404/12-days-of-christmas-explained

Twelve Drummers The Newman Center at Keene State College

The twelve drummers drumming stand for the twelve doctrinal points of the Apostles’ Creed, which are:

1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.

6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,

9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,

10. the forgiveness of sins,

11. the resurrection of the body,

12. and the life everlasting.


Beat! Beat! Drums!Walt Whitman

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!

Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,

Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,

Into the school where the scholar is studying,

Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride,

Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,

So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!

Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets;

Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds,

No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—would they continue?

Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?

Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?

Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!

Make no parley—stop for no expostulation,

Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer,

Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,

Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,

Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,

So strong you thump O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.


The Drum Major of the Freedom Parade — Margaret Burroughs

(For all children who wondered about the tragic event of April 4, 1968 at Memphis.)

My children, my children, remember the day

When the Drum Major of Freedom’s parade went away.

Stop crying now little children and listen

And you will know for the future what really did happen. 

You will know why your father was solemn and grim

And why mother’s eyes were wet at the rim.

You will know why the flags flew at half mast

And why all the buildings were shut tight and fast. 

The Drum Major was down in Memphis that day

Helping the workers to win a raise in pay

When an evil assassin’s bullet

Snuffed his bright young life away.

That’s why we were all so saddened that day

When the life of the Drum Major was taken away.

Who will come forward to stand in his stead?

Who’ll be the Drum Major in the Freedom parade?

My children, our Major was such a good man

Whose life was based on the divine plan.

He loved this country, its people black and white

And believed that all should be imbued with the right. 

That’s why we were all so saddened that day

When the life of the Drum Major was taken away.

We are looking for someone to stand in his stead

We now seek a new leader for the Freedom parade.

Do you know my children that he bore the brunt,

He marched unafraid right up in the front

He marched for Justice for children like you

And a bountier life for your parents too.

That’s why we honor Martin Luther King

He tried with love to make Liberty ring.

He wished everyone in our tortured country

To live together in peace and harmony.

That’s why we were all so saddened that day

When the Drum Major’s life was taken away.

Do you know someone who can stand in his stead?

Do you know someone to lead the parade?

I hear you my children. I hear what you said.

That you children yourselves would lead his parade

That you’ll carry the banner of the Drum Major dear

And march on to full Freedom without any fear.

Our spirits are lifted, our sorrows subside.

You children shall lead us with Dr. King at your side. 

You children of Freedom will stand in his stead.

You children of Freedom will lead the parade. 

March on my children to his distant drumbeat. 

March on my children, keep alive his heartbeat.

When this Peace and Freedom is finally won

Then will Martin Luther King’s work be done. 


Drum Dream Girl —  Margarita Engle

On an island of music

in a city of drumbeats

the drum dream girl


of pounding tall conga drums

tapping small bongó drums

and boom boom booming

with long, loud sticks

on big, round, silvery

moon-bright timbales.

But everyone

on the island of music

in the city of drumbeats

believed that only boys

should play drums

so the drum dream girl

had to keep dreaming





At outdoor cafés that looked like gardens

she heard drums played by men

but when she closed her eyes

she could also hear

her own imaginary


When she walked under

wind-wavy palm trees

in a flower-bright park

she heard the whir of parrot wings

the clack of woodpecker beaks

the dancing tap

of her own footsteps

and the comforting pat

of her own


At carnivals, she listened

to the rattling beat

of towering


on stilts

and the dragon clang

of costumed drummers

wearing huge masks.

At home, her fingertips

rolled out their own

dreamy drum rhythm

on tables and chairs…

and even though everyone

kept reminding her that girls

on the island of music

have never played drums

the brave drum dream girl

dared to play

tall conga drums

small bongó drums

and big, round, silvery

moon-bright timbales.

Her hands seemed to fly

as they rippled


and pounded

all the rhythms

of her drum dreams.

Her big sisters were so excited

that they invited her to join

their new all-girl dance band

but their father said only boys

should play drums.

So the drum dream girl

had to keep dreaming

and drumming


until finally

her father offered

to find a music teacher

who could decide if her drums


to be heard.

The drum dream girl’s

teacher was amazed.

The girl knew so much

but he taught her more

and more

and more

and she practiced

and she practiced

and she practiced

until the teacher agreed

that she was ready

to play her small bongó drums

outdoors at a starlit café

that looked like a garden

where everyone who heard

her dream-bright music


and danced

and decided

that girls should always

be allowed to play


and both girls and boys

should feel free

to dream.

Day 11 of 12 Days of Christmas: Eleven pipers piping

But he heard high up in the air
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,
And never was piping so gay.
― William Butler Yeats




A similar cumulative verse from Scotland, “The Yule Days”, has been likened to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in the scholarly literature. It has thirteen days rather than twelve, and the number of gifts does not increase in the manner of “The Twelve Days”. Its final verse, as published in Chambers, Popular Rhymes, Fireside Stories, and Amusements of Scotland (1842), runs as follows:

The king sent his lady on the thirteenth Yule day,
Three stalks o’ merry corn,
Three maids a-merry dancing,
Three hinds a-merry hunting,
An Arabian baboon,
Three swans a-merry swimming,
Three ducks a-merry laying,
A bull that was brown,
Three goldspinks,
Three starlings,
A goose that was grey,
Three plovers,
Three partridges,
A pippin go aye;
Wha learns my carol and carries it away?

“Pippin go aye” (also spelled “papingo-aye” in later editions) is a Scots word for peacock or parrot.


“Les Douze Mois” (“The Twelve Months”) (also known as “La Perdriole”—”The Partridge”) is another similar cumulative verse from France that has been likened to The Twelve Days of Christmas. Its final verse, as published in de Coussemaker, Chants Populaires des Flamands de France (1856), runs as follows:

Le douzièm’ jour d’l’année,Que me donn’rez vous ma mie?
Douze coqs chantants,
Onze plats d’argent,
Dix pigeons blancs,
Neuf bœufs cornus,
Huit vaches mordants,
Sept moulins à vent,
Six chiens courants,
Cinq lapins courant par terre,
Quat’ canards volant en l’air,
Trois rameaux de bois,
Deux tourterelles,
Un’ perdrix sole,
Qui va, qui vient, qui vole,
Qui vole dans les bois.
The twelfth day of the year
What will you give me, my love?
Twelve singing cockerels,
Eleven silver dishes,
Ten white pigeons,
Nine horned oxen,
Eight biting cows,
Seven windmills,
Six running dogs,
Five rabbits running along the ground,
Four ducks flying in the air,
Three wooden branches,
Two turtle doves,
One lone partridge,
Who goes, who comes, who flies,
Who flies in the woods.

According to de Coussemaker, the song was recorded “in the part of [French] Flanders that borders on the Pas de Calais”. Another similar folksong, “Les Dons de l’An”, was recorded in the Cambresis region of France. Its final verse, as published in 1864, runs:

Le douzièm’ mois de l’an,
que donner à ma mie?
Douz’ bons larrons,
Onze bons jambons,
Dix bons dindons,
Neuf bœufs cornus,
Huit moutons tondus,
Sept chiens courants,
Six lièvres aux champs,
Cinq lapins trottant par terre,
Quatre canards volant en l’air,
Trois ramiers de bois,
Deux tourterelles,
Une pertriolle,
Qui vole, et vole, et vole,
Une pertriolle,
Qui vole
Du bois au champ.
The twelfth month of the year
What should I give my love?
Twelve good cheeses,
Eleven good hams,
Ten good turkeycocks,
Nine horned oxen,
Eight sheared sheep,
Seven running dogs,
Six hares in the field,
Five rabbits trotting along the ground,
Four ducks flying in the air,
Three wood pigeons,
Two turtle doves,
One young partridge,
Who flies, who flies, who flies,
One young partridge,
Who flies
From the wood to the field.

Pied Piper of Hamelin (excerpt)— Robert Browning

Once more he stept into the street;

   And to his lips again

Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;

   And ere he blew three notes (such sweet

Soft notes as yet musician’s cunning

   Never gave th’enraptured air)

There was a rustling, that seem’d like a bustling

Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,

Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,

Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering,

And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering,

Out came the children running.

All the little boys and girls,

With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,

And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,

Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after

The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.

The Piper — Joseph Campbell

George Borrow in his Lavengro

Tells us of a Welshman, who

By some excess of mother-wit

Framed a harp and played on it,

Built a ship and sailed to sea,

And steered it home to melody

Of his own making. I, indeed,

Might write for Everyman to read

A thaumalogue of wonderment

More wonderful, but rest content

With celebrating one I knew

Who built his pipes, and played them, too:

No more.

Ah, played! Therein is all:

The hounded thing, the hunter’s call;

The shudder, when the quarry’s breath

Is drowned in blood and stilled in death;

The marriage dance, the pulsing vein,

The kiss that must be given again;

The hope that Ireland, like a rose,

Sees shining thro’ her tale of woes;

The battle lost, the long lament

For blood and spirit vainly spent;

And so on, thro’ the varying scale

Of passion that the western Gael

Knows, and by miracle of art

Draws to the chanter from the heart

Like water from a hidden spring,

To leap or murmur, weep or sing.

I see him now, a little man

In proper black, whey-bearded, wan,

With eyes that scan the eastern hills

Thro’ thick, gold-rimmèd spectacles.

His hand is on the chanter. Lo,

The hidden spring begins to flow

In waves of magic. (He is dead

These seven years, but bend your head

And listen.) Rising from the clay

The Master plays The Ring of Day.

It mounts and falls and floats away

Over the sky-line . . . then is gone

Into the silence of the dawn!

Day 10 of 12 Days of Christmas: Ten lords a’leaping

With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. — Acts 3:8

Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. — Isaiah 35:6

King David leaping and dancing before the Lord ... — 2 Samuel 6:16


SYMBOLISM and DISCUSSION of Ten Lords A’Leaping

It’s primarily a love song. It’s a game song, too. The point is to remember every item and not get twisted up. — Edward Phinney, a professor of classics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst

As such, the original tune was probably used as a “forfeit” song, during which two sides would sing verses in turn. If one side forgot a verse or blew a line, they would have to forefeit a prize. In many cases, it was a kiss. — Joe Fasbinder, United Press International

Long Time Gone “Ten Lords A-Leaping?” Where Did They all Come From? And What Does That Even Mean? — Priscilla Waggoner
Although some challenge the veracity of the story, a writer named Ann Ball, who spent years writing on the lives of the saints and “The Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals”, explains the real meaning and tracks the carol back to England and the year 1558.
      According to Ball, from the mid-1500s to 1829, Catholics in England were not allowed to freely and openly practice their religion. As a result, someone penned the carol as a summary of the principles of Christianity—also known as a catechism—for young Catholics, unable to receive instruction, to learn. Ball states there are two meanings of the carol: the one that everyone knows and references the multitude of gifts received by the writer’s “true love”. The second and hidden meaning of the carol is reserved for members of the Catholic Church to understand as each line contains a word that references a religious principle that, written as it was, will help Catholic children to remember.
     As she describes in her book “The Handbook of Catholic Sacrementals”, what follows is the meaning (in Ball’s words) that are hidden in the lyrics to the carol we’ve heard for longer than we can remember.
     …. The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.—
…. As was stated, it is somewhat open to debate if these hidden meanings actually account for the true origin of the carol or not.
     Whether one believes this to be true or one accepts the carol at face value is a personal decision that is theirs alone to make. What can be celebrated is the wonderful imagery of the carol—both real and symbolic—and the great fun to be had in singing it with full gusto at this glorious time of Christmas.

Legends Abound for Lords-a-leaping and Maids-a-milking in `Twelve Days’ —  Daniel Burke
What, if anything, do they symbolize?
      It depends on whom you ask.
      The song has French origins, and was published in an English children’s book called “Mirth without Mischief” around 1780. Most people believe it began as a memory game sung at Twelfth Night parties. The 12 days of Christmas in Western Christianity refer to the time between Christ’s birth on Dec. 25 and the arrival of the Magi to honor the newborn, known as Epiphany, on Jan. 6.
       In recent times, the song has been searched for coded references to Catholic doctrine, ancient Egyptian holidays, Roman myths, and the menu at medieval feasts. It has even become an annual index of economic inflation…
       In the 1990s, a story began floating around the Internet that “The Twelve Days” was used as a secret catechism by Catholics persecuted after the Reformation in England. The “true love” who offers the gifts refers to God, according to this theory. The partridge is Jesus, the two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments, the three French hens represent the virtues of faith, hope and charity, and so on.
       But California folklorists who run Snopes.com, an urban legend website, dispute the catechism tale. None of the tenets supposedly encoded in the song were points of conflict between Anglicans and Catholics, the website notes, so there would have been no reason to keep them secret. Also, it’s impractical to rely on a seasonal song to teach the faith, the folklorists said. What did persecuted Catholics do for the rest of the year?
       William Studwell, who was considered the dean of Christmas carol scholarship before he died last August, was also skeptical.
       “If there was such a catechism device, a secret code, it was derived from the original secular song,” he said in a 2008 interview with Religion News Service. “It’s a derivative, not the source.”
       “The song can still be used as an educational or devotional tool by using the symbols as a mnemonic device,” said the Rev. Dennis Bratcher, a Church of the Nazarene minister and director of the Christian Resource Institute. “Many Christians today hear the song in those terms anyway, regardless of its origins.”
      …. Leigh Grant, who wrote and illustrated a children’s book about “The Twelve Days,” said the gifts are popular parts of medieval feasts, often held during Twelfth Night celebrations. The birds were eaten while the pipers, drummers, and lords entertained the guests. The five golden rings in the song refer not to jewelry, but to ring-necked pheasants.
        But the song is also rife with symbolism, Grant said.
        Partridges and pears, for instance, were considered emblems of fertility during the Renaissance, she said. Likewise, geese and swans were seen as intermediaries between the earth and the sky, and thus humans and heaven.
        “I’ve heard a lot of theories about this song,” Grant said, “and I don’t know if any of them are true. But what often happens to songs is that people change them, and so does the meaning people find in them.” ….

ten lords a leaping — Dave Snowden
So we have a choice between the ten commandments or a reference to cuckoos. As a symbol of immorality and disorder it fits with Christmas as a time of misrule and sexual license. It also carries a sense of reversal, for that period a labourer might be a lord. With Ladies, drummers and pipers you get a real sense of a major party being set up. By the time the song is sung in full we will have 36 ladies, 30 lords, 22 pipers and 12 drummers! Some sources also suggest the extended impact of drugs (specifically the post 16th Century use of the ergot fungus) and alcohol.
       So lets party. The Lords of Misrule; appointed by lot to preside over the Feast of Fools at Christmas/Saturnalia have a long history. For a temporary period servants became the masters, satire ruled the rulers and they had to show good humour. In some darker legends the Lord of Misrule had total license for a period but was then ritually sacrificed given a whole new take on feast, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die: licence has consequences in the sense of 1 Corinthians 15:32 but I may be stretching things a bit there. interestingly the practice was banned by Henry VIII, restored by Mary I and then banned again by Elizabeth I which says a lot. Mary always gets a bad press, but then she didn’t have Shakespeare to run her propaganda machine.

Commentary: Lords a-leaping or a leap of faith? — St. Louis Public Radio — Paul Harrington, full article: https://news.stlpublicradio.org/arts/2010-12-24/commentary-lords-a-leaping-or-a-leap-of-faith

It’s typical these days to encounter “The 12 Days of Christmas” in our culture: an uncountable number of musical variations (including the cast of “Glee” and “Winnie the Pooh,” go figure), CNN challenges to video each of the 12 gifts, analyses of the cost of the gifts, and so on.
       What’s missing is the why: Why are these 12 days called out, and what’s their significance? Why 12? When does the 12-day countdown begin? Is it just a nonsense song about trying to buy love (sorry, Beatles) with a succession of greater and greater gifts?
       Or, is it something more?… It turns out that the 12 days of Christmas have more to do with the historical Nativity of 2,000 years ago than it does with shopping at Nordstrom’s for three French hens.
       The original 12 days of Christmas are tied to the Feast of the Epiphany. In Christian religions, the Epiphany is the day that the baby Jesus was revealed to the world as the Son of God. The very word epiphany comes from the ancient Greek word epiphaneia and can be translated to mean appearance, manifestation or shining forth. The anglicized version became epiphany.
       Early Christians seem to have fixated upon the date of Jan. 6 as the date of the original Epiphany. Thus, with some quick math, we can see that the Epiphany comes 12 days after the birth of Christ on Dec. 25. Put it all together, and it’s easy to understand why the 12 days of Christmas would be commemorated in song. (Note that the Eastern churches and other religions’ calendars vary a bit on the precise date and meaning, when the 12 days begin or conclude. My vantage point is Western Christianity.)
       But there are more to the 12 days and the Feast of the Epiphany than a simple measurement of the time it took until the Magi knocked on the manger door. Certainly, over the years Christians have attached religious symbols to each of the gifts mentioned in the song: Ten lords a-leaping, for instance, can be interpreted to mean the Ten Commandments. But to me, those metaphors seem a bit forced and miss the bigger question: What do the 12 days, and the associated Epiphany, mean to believers in the Christian faiths?
       The 12 days do indeed count the magi’s journey from the east to Bethlehem; but their trip is a journey of faith, a 12-day quest to encounter the divine. The magi follow a symbol in the sky for 12 days across the harsh desert in search of an answer to the mystery of the burning star of Bethlehem. The magi were not from Israel, so their journey and subsequent homage to the child of God is interpreted to be the revelation of a divine being to the entire world. It was a true leap of faith for these men to begin a difficult adventure into the unknown in search of truth and answers.
       Could we be so bold today? If we pause to set aside all the lovely images we associate with the Nativity and the magi, and consider the dangerous reality of their holy mission, we cannot help but be impressed. It must have been a long, arduous, and trying expedition to make. An excellent poem by T.S. Eliot, “The Journey of the Magi,” eloquently captures the drama and challenge of such a daunting undertaking. The magi’s 12-day journey was a test of faith, strength, and courage, a fitting trial for three men who would eventually come face to face with God.
       On Christmas day, after the presents are unwrapped and the holiday hubbub has diminished, take a moment to ponder that the true season of Christmas is just beginning on Dec. 25. Consider that just over 2,000 years ago, brave men conquered the desert — and their fears — to make perhaps the most important journey of all time. And don’t let Jan. 6 be just another Thursday on your calendar: Remember it and honor it as the day that the majesty and power of God were revealed to us all.

Lord —  Yehudah Halevi

Translated by Peter Cole

all my desire is here before you,

     whether or not I speak of it:

I’d seek your favor, for an instant, then die—

     if only you would grant my wish.

I’d place my spirit in your hand,

     then sleep—and in that sleep find sweetness.

I wander from you—and die alive;

     the closer I cling—I live to die.

How to approach I still don’t know,

     nor on what words I might rely.

Instruct me, Lord: advise and guide me.

     Free me from my prison of lies.

Teach me while I can bear the affliction—

     do not, Lord, despise my plea;

before I’ve become my own burden

     and the little I am weighs on me,

and against my will, I give in

     as worms eat bones that weary of me.

I’ll come to the place my forefathers reached,

     and by their place of rest find rest.

Earth’s back to me is foreign;

     my one true home is in its dust.

Till now my youth has done what it would:

     When will I provide for myself?

The world He placed in my heart has kept me

     from tending to my end and after.

How could I come to serve my Lord,

     when I am still desire’s prisoner?

How could I ask for a place on high,

     when I know the worm will be my sister?

How at that end could my heart be glad,

     when I do not know what death will bring?

Day after day and night after night

     reduce the flesh upon me to nothing.

Into the winds they’ll scatter my spirit.

     To dust they’ll return the little remaining.

What can I say—with desire my enemy,

     from boyhood till now pursuing me:

What is Time to me but your Will?

     If you’re not with me, what will I be?

I stand bereft of any virtue:

     only your justice and mercy shield me.

But why should I speak, or even aspire?

     Lord, before you is all my desire.

Lord Is Not a Word Christian Wiman

Lord is not a word.

Song is not a salve.

Suffer the child, who lived

on sunlight and solitude.

Savor the man, craving

earth like an aftertaste.

To discover in one’s hand

two local stones the size

of a dead man’s eyes

saves no one, but to fling them

with a grace you did not know

you knew, to bring them

skimming homing

over blue, is to discover

the river from which they came.

Mild merciful amnesia

through which I’ve moved

as through a blue atmosphere

of almost and was,

how is it now,

like ruins unearthed by ruin,

my childhood should rise?

Lord, suffer me to sing

these wounds by which I am made

and marred, savor this creature

whose aloneness you ease and are.

Lord Juggler  Roberta Teale Swartz

O juggler,
With zealous face ,
In what wide market-place
Do you stand,
Your hand
Tilting thse colored spheres in a rhythmic race?

O charlatan!
When you pretend
Almost to miuss—and bend
For the crowd’s sake,
And briskly take
The tumbling ball back into its old wend—

Then how we draw
A startled breath—
As if it meant our death
To let them bound
So near the ground!
Just in the nick your palms are underneath.

But if you see—
But if your eyes
Take note of fools’ surprise,
We never know.
You do not show
Whether you’re please to trick us; you are wise.

So, juggler!
Still for awhile
These capttured wits beguile—
But having gathered im
Your globves from their spin
Reveal. before we go, how you can smile!

Day 9 of 12 Days of Christmas: Nine ladies dancing

Lady’s BoogieLangston Hughes

See that lady
Dressed so fine?
She ain’t got boogie-woogie
On her mind—

But if she was to listen
I bet she’d hear,
Way up in the treble
The tingle of a tear.




The symbolism associated with the nine ladies dancing are the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit.  They are found in Galatians 5:22-23.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  (23)  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” — https://kscnewmancenter.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/twelve-days-of-christmas-day-9-nine-ladies-dancing/

Jolly News Dayton Daily News: https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/opinion/jolly-thoughts-the-days-christmas/idfbtmBoOnw95HiAoa31GI/

There is no firm consensus, but two conflicting theories dominate.

The religious theory stems from the suppression of Catholicism during the reigns of certain British Protestant monarchs and Reformists. The theory is that each of these phrases were codes that referred to tenets of Catholicism that would be inadvisable or dangerous to proclaim publicly, but could be used to teach and remind children. … This theory … is dumb. First, not all the things listed were prohibited by the reformists. Secondly, they seem really stretched; it would be much easier to make up a better, more meaningful code that would fit … And thirdly, they merely refer to things like the Ten Commandments, they don’t tell us what they are. That would have to be taught elsewhere … No, the religious connotation seems merely a poor attempt to force something to fit that just doesn’t fit, and long after the fact. Such attempts at religious meanings were not even published until at least 300 years after the song was popular.

It is much more probable that it is merely a child’s game or adult parlor game, similar to many of the “forfeits” games played in Victorian England. In such games, participants have to either have an answer (as in the game of similes) or be able to repeat what has been said before and add something, or the like, or be required to “forfeit” or otherwise be out of the game. This theory is borne out by the fact that there are many variations of the song, many changing the last verses (thus the more complicated ones in any game), so that there may be 12 lords a-leaping, 11 ladies (or dames) dancing (or waiting), 10 pipers piping, nine drummers drumming … even 10 fiddlers fiddling.

There were also many other gifts introduced, including hounds, pheasants, bells, badgers, ships (a-sailing), etc. Obviously the game wouldn’t be very exciting or challenging if everyone knew the phrases like we do today; variations were necessary to make a game of it.

COST of CHRISTMAS According to PNC (full article: https://www.pnc.com/insights/our-commitments/customers/pnc-s-christmas-price-index–soars-for-true-loves.html)

PNC has calculated the cost of true love’s gifts based on the holiday song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  While the gifts of birds, precious metals and performers haven’t changed, the price to buy them all has soared this year, in line with what consumers are facing in the real world.

PNC’s Christmas Price Index (CPI), based on the price of the gifts in the song, grew by 10.5 percent in 2022, the third highest year-over-year increase in history of PNC’s whimsical holiday tradition. The overall cost to buy all 12 gifts in the song is a record $45,523.27 in 2022.

“True Love’s shopping tab reflects what’s happening in the broader economy this year as commodity and energy prices, along with supply chain disruptions, have driven the cost of goods and services up,” said Amanda Agati, chief investment officer for the PNC Asset Management Group.

Rising Costs Drive Growth

Birds comprise half of the gifts in the CPI and an overall increase in bird and feed prices are a factor in this year’s cost. Prices for the turtle doves ($600), French hens ($318.75) and geese ($720) all jumped by at least 9% in 2022. The partridge ($20.18) – and more pertinently – its pear tree home ($260) grew by nearly 26% this year, primarily due to increased costs of fertilizer for the tree.

Prices in the service economy also jumped in 2022, reflected in the cost of the performance-based gifts at the back half of True Love’s shopping list. Wage and labor cost growth drove prices higher for the Nine Ladies Dancing ($8,308.12), Eleven Pipers Piping ($3,021.40) and Twelve Drummers Drumming ($3,266.93.) The Ten Lords-a-Leaping – priced on the cost of hiring a ballet company – grew an astounding 24 percent year over year to $13,980, supplanting the swans as the most expensive single gift in the index.

The rising costs of goods and services due to inflation likely sent some investors seeking gold. That resulted in growing prices for the precious metal this holiday season and a 39% increase in the cost of the Five Gold Rings ($1,245) for True Loves – the largest year-over-year percentage increase for any of the gifts in the index.

“While it’s unlikely most holiday shoppers are looking to gift the way True Love does, the experience of a higher holiday bill is a reality,” Agati said. “Whether your shopping list includes birds and bands or something more traditional, the cost of production, shipping and labor is up this year, which means price tags follow suit.

Like the index, consumer behavior is the drumbeat for the U.S. economy,” Agati said. “With 70% of U.S. GDP tied to consumption, consumer financial health is key to future market performance. We will be keeping an eye on guiding stars like retail sales, savings rates and consumer sentiment as indicators of the success of this holiday season,” she added.


The earliest known publications of the words to The Twelve Days of Christmas were an illustrated children’s book, Mirth Without Mischief, published in London in 1780, and a broadsheet by Angus, of Newcastle, dated to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries.

While the words as published in Mirth without Mischief and the Angus broadsheet were almost identical, subsequent versions (beginning with James Orchard Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes of England of 1842) have displayed considerable variation:

  • In the earliest versions, the word on is not present at the beginning of each verse—for example, the first verse begins simply “The first day of Christmas”. On was added in Austin’s 1909 version, and became very popular thereafter.
  • In the early versions “my true love sent” me the gifts. However, a 20th-century variant has “my true love gave to me”; this wording has become particularly common in North America.
  • In one 19th-century variant, the gifts come from “my mother” rather than “my true love”.
  • Some variants have “juniper tree” or “June apple tree” rather than “pear tree”, presumably a mishearing of “partridge in a pear tree”.
  • The 1780 version has “four colly birds”—colly being a regional English expression for “coal-black” (the name of the collie dog breed may come from this word).This wording must have been opaque to many even in the 19th century: “canary birds”, “colour’d birds”, “curley birds”, and “corley birds” are found in its place. Frederic Austin’s 1909 version, which introduced the now-standard melody, also altered the fourth day’s gift to four “calling” birds, and this variant has become the most popular, although “colly” is still found.
  • “Five gold rings” has often become “five golden rings”, especially in North America In the standard melody, this change enables singers to fit one syllable per musical note.
  • The gifts associated with the final four days are often reordered. For example, the pipers may be on the ninth day rather than the eleventh.

12 Days of Wordlady: Nine Ladies Dancing (full article: https://katherinebarber.blogspot.com/2014/12/12-days-of-wordlady-nine-ladies-dancing.html)

I have already discussed the interesting story of “dance”, but what about “lady”, a word obviously close to my heart?

It is derived from an Old English word, hlæfdie, a compound of hlæf (bread) and dige (kneader). From its earliest appearance in written records, this “bread kneader” was the woman in charge of a household.

The second element of the compound, dige, is related to the word that gave us “dairy”, as we saw in our last post. The first element, hlæf, evolved into “loaf”, its place as the collective word for the staff of life usurped by “bread”, which started out meaning “a piece of food”. “Give us today our daily loaf” and “I am the loaf of life,” said Anglo-Saxon Gospel translations.

Lady Day — J. Patrick Lewis

for Billie Holiday

Lady could pour you a song,

Coffee and a little cream.

Stir it the whole night long

Into a brown-sugar dream.

Lady could wrap you a note

Up in a velvet night—

Sometimes Manhattan satin,

Always Harlem delight.

Lady Day could sing it

Like nobody ever has

At the Shim Sham Club, Hot Cha Cha,

Joints that swung on jazz.

Her bittersweet songs told Heartbreak,

Meet your sister Pain,

But Lady melted yesterdays

Into beautiful rain.

Lady Birds’ Evening Meetings Tacey M. Atsitty

After Sylvia Plath’s bee poems

Why am I here again with all of them flittering about? Just to be alone—

It’s what I tell myself, that I too bear black spots on red skin,

It’s how we scamper about before flowing off with our chiffon wings ready to take flight

At a moment’s notice, I am against the wall once again, wainscotting.

The girl on my soccer team leans over to me as I ready to take the seat next to her.

I don’t want no dirty Navajo sitting next to me, she says with her foreleg atop the cold metal chair.

So I take a seat in the row behind before leaving to find an empty room upstairs.

That day the leaders made us binders, wrapped in cotton filling, fabric, and lace.

I got the last pick; well, it wasn’t a pick at all. It was an ugly bright yellow calico print with thick white cotton lace. No one wanted it.

Why did no one tell me to wear a dress?

It’s my first time to this edifice, and I come without—

The girl down the street, the nice one, offers to buy me a white dress with pink florals from Kmart with her credit card. I accept.

This is an emergency, she declares with her card held high in the air.

I am 13 and she 17. Her parents say she can only use it in the event of—

The fabric hugs my ladybug rolls snugly as I step my way to the temple door.

It’s where we learn to really spread our wings in worship, tune our antennae like aluminum to the heavens.

Earlier I said, I could marry anywhere—that it didn’t matter none to me.

I didn’t know it yet, but I was a bug amid blossoms and their vines, winding through unnoticed and unaware

Until a knock came to my door: a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies sits on the welcome mat,

The girls giggling behind the trees, and there in the starlit night, we became a bloom.

bag lady, boxedEmily Carney

there is a plasticity to the soul that can fit inside

sweaters but not inside drawers. how many times

can one watch the same porn video before one

feels that they have become that porn video. how

many times can you attempt to untangle a cross. i

bought a black dress today — long, and covered with

sequins in the timorous shapes of stars. when i paid for it i

imagined myself sitting in it on a curb drinking beer with you,

so tell me what came first, the beer or the dress. you put

my broken buddha lamp in the hall today because it

“just didn’t fit.” i put you on the right side of my neck

during a sex dream for the same reason. pisces

is the blue cheese of the zodiac signs. are you a gemini?

rose-covered curtains give me anxiety and black gauze

has the polar-opposite effect. does styrofoam turn you

on? it is narcissistic to assume that anything likes to be liked by

you. it is narcissistic to assume that anything matters if

you don’t. i would like to be a man ray photograph

more than i would like to be a person. i would like to

be the glass carnival wallpaper at your lips more than

i would like to be a person. would you fuck me against

your window, even though it is phobic to be naked

in public? i have a feeling that although you are a poet,

you think that poets are phony. i have a feeling that it’s

all a joke to you and i like it, but i am not similar.

your lips came to me in a dream, red and shiny like

cartoon wool. your lips came to me in a honda

and i loved them away, and i pushed them anyway.

i wanted to be a porn star, your father wanted you to

make boxes. we both felt upset about the wanting. we both

learned that it is important to feel guiltless about smashing guitars.

i am a 5 p.m. person who buys cardigans to look like

trash. you are a 9 p.m. person who likes both

kinds of nylon against your fingers. i couldn’t

concentrate in yoga because i was fixated

on how much you’d like the ass of the

girl in front of me. i’m starting to believe that purple

hair is cliché and i don’t like it. i let myself get wet in the

rain today because i wanted you to be proud of me. when are my

poems going to stop you.

this is just the long string of molecules.

this is just the long.

Day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas: Eight maids a-milking

MILKMAID (excerpt) — Thomas Hardy

Under a daisied bank
There stands a rich red ruminating cow,
   And hard against her flank
A cotton-hooded milkmaid bends her brow.

   The flowery river-ooze
Upheaves and falls; the milk purrs in the pail;
   Few pilgrims but would choose
The peace of such a life in such a vale.

   The maid breathes words–to vent,
It seems, her sense of Nature’s scenery,
   Of whose life, sentiment,
And essence, very part itself is she…


SYMBOLISM THEORIES for Eight Milkmaids

On the Eighth Day of Christmas…Eight Maids A-Milking — Chuck Nugent, ttps://discover.hubpages.com/holidays/On_the_Eighth_Day_of_Christmas
The eight maids a-milking addresses two of the major themes of fifteenth and sixteenth century English celebrations and parties during the Christmas holidays – food and romance. What is a feast or party without food? Especially foods that are not common and are reserved for special occasions.
      Until the advent of refrigeration, milk was not a common drink because it spoiled quickly. However, milk based products that did not spoil, such as cheese, sour milk (which is actually a cultured milk much like yogurt and is neither sour tasting nor spoiled) and custards were prized treats. Cheese and sour milk are the result of processes that expose milk to so called friendly bacteria which convert the milk to a state where it can be preserved for a longer period and is also tasty. Custard is similar but this involves the cooking of the milk, which kills the harmful bacteria thereby extending the period during which it can be safely consumed.
     The maids, of course, refer to the women who would milk the cows to obtain the milk in the first place. In times past milking of cows or goats was typically a job for women. However, the term maid is also the shortened form of maiden which is a young, unmarried, woman. By combining the images of maiden and milk (which can also bring to mind a woman’s breasts), it is easy to get the idea that this particular gift has more to do with sex and romance than with cows.
“Maids A-Milking” Can Refer to Both Dining or a Sexual Encounter
     The term eight maids a-milking evokes images of the food, especially the special holiday foods, to be enjoyed at this festive time of year as well as the possibilities for romance, both licit and illicit.
      While the people of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were not as prudish as the nineteenth century Victorians, there was still pressure, especially for women, to maintain a somewhat chaste image in public. Young upper class (both merchant class and nobility) women were usually chaperoned when in public and when being courted by young men.
     However, during the Twelfth Night celebrations not only were many of the rules of behavior relaxed but the environment in which the parties were held provided opportunities to escape the watchful eyes of the public. In the midst of a large group of people, many of them strangers, who were busy drinking, dancing and having a good time, it was easy to slip away from one’s chaperon or spouse.
      Masked and costumed balls increased the opportunities for secret liaisons as well as providing additional means of denying your actions the next day. With candles and torches the sole source of lighting, it was often difficult to identify people across the room let alone in the numerous rooms and darkened alcoves found in the castles and large manor houses where the parties were held. The opportunities offered for some passionate time alone with a lover or a quick one night stand with a stranger were a major attraction of these parties.
    Further evidence of the sexual connotations of this stanza is the fact that during this time period in England the term to go a-milking had strong romantic and sexual connotations. It was a term that men used when they wanted to ask a woman to marry them or to have a simple sexual encounter.
     Like similar expressions people use today, asking a woman to go a-milking was a code used by men to test a woman’s response to their intentions. Words have meaning and they carry emotional impact. Requests also require a response. Will you marry me and will you go a-milking with me may convey the same message but the nonsense phrase go a-milking does not carry the emotional impact of marry me or come to bed with me.
     Coded phrases like this allow people to converse more freely while at the same time allowing them to retract a statement more easily. When a man asks a woman to marry him and she says no what can he respond back with without looking desperate and/or foolish? But, when he asks a woman to go a-milking with him and she replies with a no he can easily come back with something like “well, I just thought you would like to help me with the cows.” In this case his proposal was received and understood but rejected, at least temporarily. However both are able to dismiss it as a misunderstanding of what he really meant. Both laugh and can proceed without loss of dignity on either side.

Healthful Living MidPhase: full aarticle: https://www.midphase.com/blog/twelve-days-of-christmas-eight-maids-a-milking/
On the eighth day a true love gifts eight maids a-milking to his one and only. A somewhat strange gift, we know, but we have formed a hypothesis for exactly how this strange present could have been a lifesaver from the phrase “smooth as a milkmaid’s skin.”
This story actually harks back to the days before vaccinations were invented in the late 18th century. Some began to notice that milkmaids always had vibrant skin, clear of any dangerous pox that plagued the era. During this time, the country had been afflicted from the deadly disease known as smallpox. An English physician by the name of Edward Jenner took notice of the milkmaids’ beautiful skin and began to research this strange occurrence.
The answer amounted to another disease called cowpox. Milkmaids were exposed to cowpox during the milking process when the cows’ udders became infected. Jenner discovered that milkmaids who had been infected with cowpox didn’t show symptoms of smallpox. Although very similar to smallpox, cowpox was much milder and rarely resulted in death.
Jenner experimented with the relationship with the two diseases by extracting fluid from a cowpox sore and injected the fluid into an eight-year-old boy (not very ethical by today’s standards, but we will let it slide). A week later Jenner exposed the boy to smallpox and waited for a result. Amazingly, the boy didn’t get sick and was completely resistant to smallpox for the rest of his life. Jenner had succeeded in his fight against smallpox. Through this process a cure was discovered and countless lives were saved.
Medicine over the years has built upon Jenner’s early experimentation with diseases. You could safely say that without his somewhat risky research we might not have the life-saving vaccinations we do today. Through Jenner’s work smallpox was eradicated from the world.
So, the next time your true love offers you eight milkmaids to show you that he cares – be glad, for you never know the secrets that milkmaids hold!

ALTERNATE IDEAS about Eight Maids A-Milking

Servant Leadership
Representing the common man whom Christ had come to serve and save. When the song was written, no job in England was lower than working in a barn, and for a female servant to be used in this way indicated that she was worth little to her master. Christ was the true servant, even giving His life for His people. The number eight also represents the beatitudes listed in Matthew 5: 3-10 Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker, and the righteous. — Hampshire Pewter

The 8 Maids-a-milking & the 8 Beatitudes— Carolyn Cornell Holland, full article: https://carolyncholland.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/the-8-maids-a-milking-the-8-beatitudes/

The eight maids a-milking addresses two of the major themes of fifteenth and sixteenth century English celebrations and parties during the Christmas holidays – food and romance.

Typically, the work of milking cows (and goats) was a woman’s job. Although milk was not a common beverage during this pre-refrigeration time (it spoiled too quickly), milk based products did not spoil so rapidly. Cheese, sour milk, and custards—which were prized treats for celebrations.

And the word maid? It’s a shortened form of maiden, a young, unmarried woman.

This combination of milking and maid lends itself to the idea that a gift of eight maids-a-milking might have more to do with romance than with cows.

During this time period the term go a-milking did have strong romantic connotations. Men used the term when they wanted to propose marriage (or a sexual encounter) with a woman. It was a kind of a code word to test a woman’s response—if she reacts negatively, he can always say he thought she might like to help him with the cows, and they could laugh.

Remember, the gifts in the popular Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas each signify a Christian message.

So what do the maids-a-milking signify in the popular Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas?

Interestingly enough, it is a code word for the eight Beatitudes that introduce the greatest sermon ever preached: the Sermon on the Mount—Matthew 5:1-12.

The Sermon on the Mount, preached by Jesus, starts with a list of eight Beatitudes:

  1. v. 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit.
  2. v. 4 Blessed are those who mourn.
  3. v. 5.Blessed are the meek.
  4. v.6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
  5. v. 7 Blessed are the merciful.
  6. v. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart.
  7. v. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers.
  8. v.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (And v.11 Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.)**
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