artNotes from Hyde House: The Twelve Days of Christmas


The Twelve Days of Christmas span the time between the birth of the Christ Child and the appearance of the Magi, the three wise men. They begin on Christmas day, December 25, and run through the Epiphany, January 6, sometimes also called Three Kings’ Day.

The Twelve Days of Christmas carol, dates back to the early twentieth century. Composed by Englishman Frederic Austin in 1901, the carol is based on a traditional folk song and celebrates the gifts given in this season of celebration.

The twelve gifts given by a true love are these:

  1. A partridge in a pear tree,
  2. Two turtle doves,
  3. Three French hens,
  4. Four calling birds,
  5. Five gold rings,
  6. Six geese a-laying
  7. Seven swans a-swimming,
  8. Eight maids a-milking,
  9. Nine ladies dancing,
  10. Ten lords a-leaping,
  11. Eleven pipers piping,
  12. Twelve drummers drumming.

In the Christian tradition the gifts are those given by the Christ Child—the “partridge in a pear tree” symbolizes Jesus and “three French hens” represent faith, hope and love.

Faith. Hope. Love. What splendid gifts to receive in any season, at any Christmas, but especially as we draw near to the end of a year like no other we have known.

My husband and artCentral’s Prepitor David and I wish for each of us the blessings of these gifts—Faith, Hope, Love—to carry forward into the New Year. May we receive these gifts with open hearts and open minds. May we treasure them. Nurture them. May we share them near and far.

May Faith and Hope and Love be given in extra measure to all who are remembering loved ones who have left our company and are no longer here to celebrate holidays with us. May our heartaches be soothed—may our feelings of loss and aloneness be assuaged.

These gift-giving-and-receiving holiday times can magnify all our emotions—joy and sorrow, too. Grief is like having broken ribs. On the outside you look fine, but with every breath you hurt. We care for the hurting—the very real heartache and unfinished mourning—for the leaving of a precious child; a grandparent, a wife, husband, mother, father, sister or brother who has gone through the veil; a missed friend or lover; a pet who has crossed over the rainbow.

We wish for each heartache a candle, real or imagined, that whispers and burns ever so sweetly. We wish for comfort. We wish for peace. We wish for you a coming someday when the heartache lessens and becomes a soothing sweet gift—a sweet memory here and another there—sweet memories that mend the aching and cause smiles with the recalling of dear loved ones now absent.

There is an art to receiving gifts. Sometimes we must wait and weep before we can be ready for them to come. Perhaps they will arrive on the twelfth day of Christmas or maybe another day farther off. Come they always will—like glittering stars in the winter night skies—like fireflies twinkling in summer’s dusk—like three French hens unexpectedly gathering on our lawns. Faith. Hope. Love.

Come they will. Come they will. Faith. Hope. Love. Yes! They are here already in our holy days of aching. We promise.