THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
First Written In: 1780
Musical Arrangement Composed In: 1906 by Frederic Austin
Actual Date: December 25th – January 5/6th
To start this review off, let me first state that the twelve days of Christmas, as an actual time and date, does NOT in fact begin prior to Christmas Day but actually begins on it and can end either on the 5th or 6th day of January. However, the traditions that take place on these days depend on one’s faith and own traditions towards the holidays as a whole, an aspect that I will not focus on in today’s blog. Instead, I will be focusing on the one thing that everyone knows of the twelve days of Christmas that being the aptly named song.
A song that wasn’t even written to be a song in the first place might I add.
“The 12 Days of Christmas” was conceived not as a song or even as a poem but as a kind of memory game wherein the leader of the game would recite the lines and so on down the line of players until either the end is reach or someone slips. Another funny thing about the “The 12 Days of Christmas” is that the gifts themselves vary by the number for those given on the ninth through twelfth days of Christmas.
In the original printing, it was nine drummers, ten pipers, eleven ladies, and twelve lords but as of 1966 the arrangement has since been nine pipers, ten drummers, eleven lords, and twelve ladies. It is because of this that one of the arguments made towards the possible meanings behind the gifts falls… unbelievably short. The most popular theory is that was created as a means for young Catholics to learn of their faith in secret during an age where openly practicing Catholicism in England was outlawed.
This would be plausible if the arrangement stayed true to this fashion but numbers nine through twelve would have to be altered accordingly to fit this idea both from the original composition and the modern one. That and, more to the point, the poem was created as a game strictly and admittedly in a country that had no such difficulties going for them.
Since its creation, “The 12 Days of Christmas” has been sung many a time with many a variation throughout the centuries with most recent years partaking in the trope of altering the gifts to fit the singers’ own preferences. That is to say, cartoon or other such characters singing the song with their own added flairs. Yet, there was one particular instance wherein “The 12 Days of Christmas” was not just a song… but a film as well.
A made for television animated film that was all of a half hour or so in length, the film portrays a young squire forced by his master to find and deliver the gifts that the princess wants in order for his master to win her heart. This would all be well and good if the squire hadn’t accidentally purloined the king’s crossword’s puzzle answer sheet rather than the princess’s Christmas list. That and if the squire’s master, who has far too much brawn and very little brain, didn’t automatically assume that the numbers directly meant quantity rather than, oh I don’t know, order of importance or some such thing.
Overall, the cartoon is at the least quite humorous to watch especially with the voice work of Phil Hartman for the squire, but finding it on television is all but impossible and even less so on DVD. It can be viewed on Youtube but the video quality leaves much to be desired though the sound quality is surprisingly good…
Frankly, while I can understand that the 12 Days of Christmas, both the actual practice and the song itself, are never going to be at the top of one’s mind during the holiday season, I would not mind seeing another attempt made at creating a story behind the creation of the gifts or, at the least, someone attempting to find and give those same gifts as a means of proving their love for another. Frankly speaking, anybody who would go through that much trouble for even half that list deserves it.