New Zealand’s “Twelve Days of Christmas – A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree “

Here’s the annotated version of A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree – with definitions of the words below the song…

A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree
(The 12 Days of Christmas)

On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
A pukeko in a ponga tree

On the second day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Two kumera
And a pukeko in a ponga tree

On the third day of Christmas…

and so on, until…

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Twelve piupius swinging
Eleven haka lessons
Ten juicy fish heads
Nine sacks of pipis
Eight plants of puha
Seven eels a swimming
Six pois a twirling
Five – big – fat – pigs!
Four huhu grubs
Three flax kits
Two kumera
And a pukeko in a ponga tree!

Here’s a photo of a pukeko…

Photo of a Pukeko

Here are the definitions…

Pukeko = type of bird found in NZ
Ponga Tree = a fern tree that grows in NZ
Kumera = a yellow sweet potato with a purple inside core
Piuspius = a skirt made from strips of flax. They look like hula skirts. They’re worn by the Maori (indigenous people of NZ) during certain dances and special celebrations.
Haka = war chant/dance
Pipis = small shellfish
Puha = a type of sow thistle that is eaten as a vegetable in NZ
Pois = Maori word for ball – they’re two balls on the end of two ropes and they’re twirled around making patterns during some Maori dances
Huhu = a small edible grub or beetle found in NZ

Many thanks to John Archer of New Zealand Folk Song for sending me this song. Ka pai!

Come visit the Mama Lisa’s World New Zealand Page for more Songs from New Zealand!

This article was posted on Friday, December 9th, 2005 at 1:01 pm and is filed under A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree, Children's Songs, Christmas, Christmas Songs, Countries & Cultures, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Maori, New Zealand, New Zealand Children's Songs, Songs by Theme, The Twelve Days of Christmas. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

24 Responses to “New Zealand’s “Twelve Days of Christmas – A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree “”

  1. G. Stretton Says:

    That was hillarious!

  2. jerwin v. Says:

    its so nice,first time i read this lyrics and i love it eventhough im a filipino

  3. ihipera kerr Says:

    kia ora mama lisa
    good to see your new website. just a few suggestions to improve the content…

    there is no ‘s’ in Maori language therefore
    piuspius, pois and pipis, as you have written are incorrect – just drop your s off.

    kumera is the incorrect spelling, kumara is the correct one.

    The lyrics were written by Kingi Ihaka in 1981.

    Happy new year to you
    – Ihipera

  4. Maia Says:

    I agree with ihipera. and my understanding is that Ponga is spelt ‘Punga’.
    but i guess it wouldnt be that important. i mean people still say ‘mower’ instead of ‘moa’ and ‘kaapa haaka’ instead of ‘Kapa haka’ or and
    ‘whycatoe’ instead of ‘waikato’ pronounced y-cut-o like the o in Or.
    i think you should get the picture by now.
    (NOT intended to offend!)
    Ma te wa

  5. Jacqui Says:

    Merry Xmas to you all from a KIWI living in Kentucky USA
    Kia ora x

  6. Rachel Says:

    I am really pleased to see this song on your site

    Kia Ora,
    Rachel

  7. patrick Says:

    i think that ‘the new zealand 12 days of christmas’ is a disgrace to the christan religon

  8. Lisa Says:

    I don’t think there’s any offense intended. It’s just that all of the traditional Christmas songs are geared towards Christmas in Winter… while in the southern hemisphere it’s summer at Christmastime. So one can understand their desire to have songs that fit their surroundings too.

  9. Jackie Says:

    Patrick, grow up! How is the Kiwi 12 days of christmas an offence to the Christian religion?
    It is no worse than the original 12 days of Christmas song, Santa or any of the other commercialised rubbish that negates the true meaning of Christmas.

  10. Lucette Says:

    Patrick, you are joking aren’t you? How exactly?

  11. Hannah Says:

    Patrick, you need to get out more….Try 12 days of Christmas in the Middle East, notably Saudi, then you will REALLY have something to sing about!!!

  12. Hannah Says:

    Patrick, you need to spell Christian right for starters…..The Kiwi version in fantastic and kids love it!

  13. stephanie Says:

    I remember singing this version in Primary School, way back in about 1982-83, and it was the highlight of the xmas end-of-year concert. I’ve been trying to remember the lyrics for ages, and can now share them with my Australian colleagues, and finally educate them!
    Thanks for the memories!!!

  14. DCW Says:

    So long since I sang this version of the song at my old primary school back in the 80s. I remembered all the ones up to 8 plants of puha, but had to look it up to get the rest of them. So glad I found it now. :-)

  15. margaret ann Says:

    I am a homesick Kiwi at this time of the year – our family Christmas tradition is to sing this at the Christmas table immediately after having given thanks – I found your site on my quest to download the words for use tomorrow. Thanks.

  16. Ian Johnson Says:

    Very funny!
    We live in Qatar, middle east, and pigs arn’t quite the picture for muslims. We have workers outside our house so we had to call the pig part sheep!

  17. Karen Jenkins Says:

    this pukeko in a ponga tree is brill. My family and I lived in NZ for 8 months and my 4 yr old daughter learned it at Kindergarten whilst she was there. She has now taught it to all her friends here in N.Ireland and they think it is v funny. Great country, great people and a great song!!

  18. Llonia Says:

    ♥Thank you for putting up this great song♥
    this song gos way back to school days for me.
    my two kids love it too, they are half Chinese &
    then Maori,Yugoslavian & Irish..
    I teach my children to embrace our culture as well
    as all others, We have so much to offer and learn from
    one other.

  19. Llonia Says:

    oh yeah i forgot..
    patrick.. relax man

  20. kiwibeca Says:

    Thanks for posting this. I remember hearing it once, ages ago and it’s really good to have the lyrics available. Somethign occured to me though as i was reading through the lyrics etc, etc; the third line. Shouldn’t that be “Three Flax Kete”, or woven Bags, rather than “Kits”. That would make more sense surely.

    Ka kite. :-)

  21. Glenda Says:

    You are right Kiwibeca it is ‘Three flax kete’. I was looking up the lyrics as I’m told I’m a traitor for having ‘six white boomers, little Joe and a koala santa’ on my tree here in Australia so have announced my intention to have the whole ‘pukeko in a punga tree’ on my tree next year! Out with the paper machie and growing of a punga tree in 2011!

    have a great holiday season everyone

    ka kite

  22. paul Says:

    Anyone know where there is a recorded version on the web. Surely its somewhere. Everything is on the web.
    Couple of verions on youtube by kids but you can’t hear the words clear enough. can someone get Kiri or Tum Fenn to crank it out and upload it.

  23. clifford Says:

    I had a book of A Pocoko In A Ponga Tree, the song too.

  24. Stephanie Says:

    Just F.Y.I thats not how you spell “Kumera” its actually “Kumara” and pronounced “koo-maa-rra”

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