Sunday, December 18, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Music

On the Sixth Day of our Tudor Twelve Days of Christmas, we will discus Tudor Christmas Music.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is one of today's most popular Christmas songs. Did you know that it originated as a way for Catholic Tudors to share their beliefs secretly with other Catholics? During the reign of Elizabeth I, Catholics were often persecuted, as their Queen and her government were Protestant. The Twelve Days of Christmas was a way for Catholics to teach their children the tenants of their faith, as well as let other Catholics know they were not alone in their persecution.



Here is a translation of the meanings behind the gifts in the song:

On the first day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, a Partridge in a Pear Tree.
("My True Love" represents God, "Me" the baptized believer, and "a Partridge in a Pear Tree" represents Christ).

On the second day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Two Turtle Doves...
("Two Turtle Doves" represent the Old and New Testament).

On the third day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Three French Hens...
("Three French Hens" represent the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

On the fourth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Four Calling Birds...
("Four Calling Birds" represent the Four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

On the fifth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Five Golden Rings...
("Five Golden Rings" represent the Five Catholic Obligatory Sacraments - Baptism, Communion, Confirmation, Penance, and Last Rites).

On the sixth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Six Geese a Laying...
("Six Geese a Laying" represent the Six Days of Creation).
On the seventh day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Seven Swans a Swimming...
("Seven Swans a Swimming" represent the Seven Sacraments).
On the eigth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Eight Maids a Milking...
("Eight Maids a Milking" represent the Eight Beatitudes - days required for Catholics to receive Communion).
On the ninth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Nine Ladies Dancing...
("Nine Ladies Dancing" represent the Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit). 
On the tenth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Ten Lords a Leaping...
("Ten Lords a Leaping" represent the Ten Commandments). 

On the eleventh day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Eleven Pipers Piping...
("Eleven Pipers Piping" represent the Eleven Apostles, Excluding Judas).
On the twelfth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Twelve Drummers Drumming...
("Twelve Drummers Drumming" represent the twelve points of the Apostles Creed).
Another popular Christmas song was The Boar's Head Carol. This carol describes the presentation of a Boar's Head as part of the Yuletide feast. Much as we have a turkey or ham as our Christmas dinner centerpiece, so did the Tudors have a boar's head. Listen to the carol below:



Though originally not a Christmas song, the tune Greensleeves has been adapted to the popular Christmas song "What Child is this." Legend has it that Greensleeves was written by Henry VIII about Anne Boleyn. However, some historians doubt this. Despite who wrote it, it is one of my favorite Tudor songs. My favorite version of Greensleeves is by Mannheim Steamroller. Listen to it below :)


Most Christmas music from Tudor England was religious. Christmas, after all, was one of the most important religious holidays in Tudor England...as it still is today!

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