The Tabernacle Choir Blog

The 12 Days of…and after Christmas

The English carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was first published as a rhyme in 1780. In 1909 Frederic Austin set the text to his arrangement of a traditional folk melody in 1909, creating the popular version we know today. Along with other minor changes, his arrangement included the prolonged verse of “five gold rings.”

The well-known song has 12 verses that build upon the previous verses as more impressive gifts are given on each of the twelve days. Each verse begins with a similar phrase: “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me,” followed by the second day, third day, and so forth.

The final verse of the song repeats all of the previous gifts:

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four calling birds,
Three french hens,
Two turtledoves,

And a partridge in a pear tree

The King’s Singers and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” arranged by Choir director, Mack Wilberg, for a broadcast of Music & the Spoken Word.

Last year’s Christmas guest artist Deborah Voigt performed a unique song that responds to “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” titled “The Twelve Days after Christmas.” The lyrics to the song explain that she and her “true love” had a fight and then describe how she got rid of all of the gifts from the former love.