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This 12 days of Christmas printable is a PDF file and has 13 total pages (including the cover page) and is best printed in black and white. Each page features a different part of the song. We recommend printing each full-page image individually but if you want to save paper and ink, you can print 2 pages per paper and double-sided for up to 4 pages per sheet.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a traditional English Christmas carol that enumerates a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas, from December 25th (Christmas Day) to January 5th. The song is cumulative, meaning each verse builds on the previous ones, repeating the gifts given on each day. The full list of gifts in the traditional version of the song is as follows:
- A partridge in a pear tree
- Two turtle doves
- Three French hens
- Four calling birds
- Five gold rings
- Six geese a-laying
- Seven swans a-swimming
- Eight maids a-milking
- Nine ladies dancing
- Ten lords a-leaping
- Eleven pipers piping
- Twelve drummers drumming
The total number of gifts given over the twelve days adds up to 364. The song has been adapted and recorded by numerous artists, and there are variations in the lyrics and the specific gifts mentioned in different versions.
A coloring book is a great way to teach your child about the song and it’s meaning!
What is the history of the 12 days of Christmas?
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a traditional English Christmas carol with origins dating back to the late 18th century, but the exact origins and meaning of the song are somewhat debated. The lyrics and the melody have evolved over time, and the song has become a popular and enduring part of the Christmas music tradition.
The concept of the twelve days of Christmas has roots in the Christian liturgical calendar. The period from December 25th, Christmas Day, to January 6th, Epiphany, is traditionally known as the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Epiphany celebrates the visit of the Magi, or the Three Wise Men, to the infant Jesus. In some cultures, January 6th is also known as Twelfth Night, marking the end of the Christmas season.
The lyrics of the song describe a series of increasingly extravagant gifts given over the twelve days, supposedly by a suitor to his beloved. The gifts mentioned in the song have been interpreted in various ways, with some suggesting that they hold symbolic or religious meanings. For example, the partridge in a pear tree is said to represent Jesus, and the other gifts may represent various Christian virtues or concepts.
Despite its Christian roots, the song has also been adapted and enjoyed in secular contexts, with many people singing it simply as a festive and playful Christmas tune. The repetition of the gifts in each verse and the cumulative nature of the song have contributed to its memorability and popularity during the holiday season.
While the precise origins and meaning of the song remain a subject of debate, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” has become a cherished part of Christmas celebrations, with numerous recordings and adaptations by artists over the years.
Why does the 12 days of Christmas start on December 25th?
The choice of starting the “Twelve Days of Christmas” on December 25th is rooted in the Christian liturgical calendar and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day. The twelve-day period spans from December 25th to January 6th, ending on the feast of Epiphany.
Epiphany, celebrated on January 6th, commemorates the visit of the Magi, or the Three Wise Men, to the baby Jesus. According to Christian tradition, the Magi arrived with gifts for the newborn, which is why the period between Christmas and Epiphany is often referred to as the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
The tradition of celebrating the twelve days can be traced back to medieval and Tudor England. During this period, the Christmas season was a time of festivity and merriment that extended beyond Christmas Day itself. Different activities, feasts, and celebrations took place throughout the twelve days, with each day holding its own significance.
Over time, various cultures and Christian denominations developed their own traditions and interpretations of the Twelve Days of Christmas. In some cultures, January 6th is also known as Twelfth Night, marking the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Epiphany. The song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” likely emerged as a playful way to represent the giving of gifts during this festive period.
While the song has its origins in Christian tradition, it has also become a secular and popular part of the broader Christmas celebration, enjoyed by people of various backgrounds during the holiday season.
12 Days of Christmas Song
While you work on these color sheets for Christmas fun, make sure to listen to the song too to help kids understand what they are coloring! I like this version on YouTube:
Why does the 12 Days of Christmas song repeat itself?
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” song repeats itself in each verse as a cumulative and repetitive structure, adding the gifts from the previous days to the new gifts introduced in each subsequent verse.
This repetition is a characteristic feature of cumulative songs, a traditional form of folk music where each verse builds upon the previous ones.
The cumulative structure serves several purposes:
- Memorability: The repetition of gifts in each verse makes the song easier to remember and sing. This has contributed to the song’s popularity and enduring presence in Christmas celebrations.
- Engagement: The cumulative nature of the song can engage the audience or singers, as they anticipate the next set of gifts and enjoy the pattern that develops over the course of the song.
- Playfulness: The repetition adds a playful and rhythmic element to the song, making it enjoyable for both children and adults. The whimsical nature of the gifts and the accumulating list contribute to the lighthearted and festive atmosphere of the song.
- Storytelling: The cumulative structure allows for a storytelling element, where each verse builds upon the previous ones, creating a narrative of gift-giving over the twelve days.
While the song’s origins and the specific meaning of each gift remain subjects of debate and interpretation, the cumulative structure has been a key factor in the song’s enduring appeal. Each verse reinforces the theme of generosity and abundance, fitting well with the festive spirit of the Christmas season.
And as a reminder, click here to download your coloring book!