On December – the king sent his lady

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A Christmas carol, s. & d. 1867; detail of top rail of frame

December, this is the month of miracles. Ceremony, celebration come to us wrapped up not in tissue and ribbons , but in cherished memories. There are miracles , there is great joy. I the dark days f December comes wonderful holiday. Oh would that month lasted the whole year. Do you remember : On the first day of Christmas……..

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

twelve-days-of-christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

 On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

 On the eighth day of Christmas,my true love sent to me Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

 On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Ten lords a-leaping, Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Eleven pipers piping, Ten lords a-leaping, Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

 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, Wow …..I’m getting tired!

 FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!!

However whats a partridge?
and whay a pear tree?
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Partridges, like many of the birds in the well-known Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas,” can be found in a medieval book known as a bestiary. Images and descriptions of real and imaginary animals mingled together in bestiaries, providing the reader with visual delight and moral lessons.

The artist Joris Hoefnagel painted flowers, fruits, insects, and other creatures with such attention to detail that they appear to grow, live, and breathe on the pages. The pear below, for example, looks almost real enough to eat.

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Finding golden rings in illuminated manuscripts required the skill of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit.

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I chose  initial o from illuminated Manuscript, Book of Hours, Decorated Initial, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.165, fol. 14r and later I find the five historiated initial Os from the multi-volume Marquette Bible because the scenes taking place within the round form of the “O” are set against a brilliant gold background.

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Illuminated Manuscript, Book of Hours, Decorated Initial, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.165, fol. 14r

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The song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English Christmas carol. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the Church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember. To fit the number scheme, when you reach number 9, representing the Fruits of the Holy Ghost, the originator combined 6 to make 3, taking the 6 fruits that were similar: the fruit in each parenthesis is the that was not named separately. There are actually Twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost.

According to Ann Ball in her book, HANDBOOK OF CATHOLIC SACRAMENTALS :

  • The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments
  • The three French hens stood for faith, hope, and love.
  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
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Illuminated Manuscript, Duke Albrecht’s Table of Christian Faith (Winter Part), The Symbols of the Four Evangelists, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.171, fol. 156r

  •  The  five golden rings represented the first five books of the Old Testament, which describe man’s fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Savior.
  • The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
Dirc_van_Delft_-_Seven_Gifts_of_the_Holy_Spirit_-_Walters_W17153R_-_Full_Page

Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Folio from Walters manuscript W.171 (15th century)

  •  Seven swans a-swimming represented the seven fold gifts of the Holy Spirit—–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
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Illuminated Manuscript, Duke Albrecht’s Table of Christian Faith (Winter Part), The Holy Ghost and the Seven Deadly Sins, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.171, fol. 110r

  •  The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
8

Illuminated Manuscript, Duke Albrecht’s Table of Christian Faith (Winter Part), The Eight Beatitudes, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.171, fol. 60v

  •  Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit—–Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience [Forbearance], Goodness [Kindness], Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continency [Chastity].
  • The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful Apostles.
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles’ Creed.
Somme_le_Roy_f.10v

This illumination from a 13th-century manuscript shows the apostles writing the Creed, receiving inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

and…………..over and over …………………… half way through this carol I suddenly realize I forgot the words to the song ……………………………………uff  I can’t remember .

There are only  18 days until Christmas. That fantastic ? In that case: How are you doing? I bring you tidings of comfort and joy. If you do Christmas  at your house, you can choose  to do  it your way. Whatever  that way might be. You can decide  to be happy, loving, , fulfilled, generous, peaceful, spiritual, joyous, festive, and connected to the important people in your life for the holidays this year. You can do everything. Choose  to let only what you love the best is still time there are only  18 days until Christmas.

                                                                                                                                   On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Five golden rings……….

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About conservationwithella

Hello, I'm Ella, Art on Paper Conservator & Preservation Manager at Glasgow University Archives and Special Collections. This blog is a walk through my daily life, work, arts & crafts history, my discovery that everything in my life is enough to be a continuous source of reflection. I started blogging to entertain myself but I hope you enjoy it too. I'm sure you agree, that Life without art is nothing. :)

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