The Twelve Days of Christmas are the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6th). Epiphany is the day the Three Wise Men (Kings) visited Jesus.

This song was first published in England in 1780. It has different tunes. The best-known tune comes from an arrangement of a folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin in 1909.

The Twelve Days of Christmas - English Children's Songs - England - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image

Notes

The 12 days of Christmas were considered to correspond to the 12 months of the year. Each (number) day related to the corresponding month. People even paid attention to the weather of each day and thought that would be the weather of the corresponding month of the upcoming year. (Ref. The Golden Bough from 1913 by Sir James George Frazer).

Comments

This song is thought to have a French origin though we haven't been able to find any current songs in French that are quite like it.

"The standard tune now associated with it is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin, who first introduced the now familiar prolongation of the verse 'five gold rings'." -Wikipedia

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Here's the order in the first recording:

12 Lords a-leaping
11 Ladies dancing
10 Pipers piping
9 Drummers drumming
8 Maids a-milking
7 Swans a-swimming
6 Geese a-laying
5 Golden rings
4 Calling birds
3 French hens
2 Turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.

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This following recording is sung to a less-known tune than people normally sing this song to. It can be found in Halliwell's "The Nursery Rhymes of England" (1842). The first verse is as follows:

The first day of Christmas
My mother sent to me,
The partridge in a pear tree.


Then it goes through every day of Christmas with the last verse as follows:

The first day of Christmas
My mother sent to me:


12 Bells Ringing
11 Ladies Spinning
10 Ships a-sailing
9 Lords a-leaping
8 Ladies Dancing
7 Swans a-swimming
6 Geese a-laying
5 Gold Rings
4 Canary Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

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Sheet Music

Sheet Music - The Twelve Days of Christmas

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Illustration of "five gold rings", from the first known publication of "The Twelve Days of Christmas", Anonymous (1780), Mirth without Mischief, London. Image was edited by Mama Lisa.

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