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David Emery

Was 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' an Underground Catechism Song?

By December 6, 2012

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"A partidge in a pear tree" stands for Jesus Christ, "two turtle doves" represent the Old and New Testaments," and "three French hens" symbolize faith, hope, and love.

So goes a theory first advanced by Canadian hymnologist Hugh D. McKellar, who suggested in a 1979 essay that the venerable holiday carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" originated as an "underground catechism" for oppressed Catholics in Elizabethan England.

Further popularized in a 1995 Internet posting by Fr. Hal Stockert, the notion that the song can be "decoded" as Church doctrine is now popularly accepted as fact, despite contrary evidence and the skepticism of historians.

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