The Twelve Knobs of Christmas
Originating in England, the holiday carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” has been delighting and annoying people since it’s 1780 publication. Technically, the twelve days of Christmas start after Christmas on the 26th, and technically no one thinks “10 Lords of Leaping” is a good gift anymore. But carolers sing on, so we may as well learn a few interesting things about this heralded hymn while checking out some of our hardware that won’t cost you a pear and a tree.
Partridges are in the pheasant family and taste anything but foul. At the time of the song, partridges would certainly have been on the menu for a Christmas dinner. So getting a pear tree with a partridge in it would be a double whammy of food sources; kind of like a 18th century KFC double-down sandwich.
Turtle Doves mate for life and their mournful songs are seen as symbols of deep devotion. By the end of the song, the singer has received 22 of these lovebirds -- a good thing, because at 25 Turtle Doves you start to seem clingy.
By today’s standard, Faverolles are the breed of chicken intended by the term “French Hens.” However, they weren’t bred until the 1860’s, so the original song must have had another type in mind. Either way, French Hens are selected to be especially beautiful, with tall crests, long tail feathers and all the other things that drive chicks wild. (pun intended)
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Often sang as “calling birds,” colly birds are songbirds. So these terms are equally correct. Unfortunately, Cinderella was the last person to successfully train songbirds into manual labor, so in this case they’re just for aural pursuits.
If you only know one verse to this song it is “fiiiiiive goo-old rinnnnnnnngs” (or gold-en). The origin and intention of this gift was just as straightforward long ago as it is now. The extra emphasis put on this verse, tells you that gold is what the singer wanted all along. Typical.
Considering the French Hens may be too over bred to actively lay, it’s good these geese are working. Eggs from geese are just as edible as chickens’ and 3-4 times larger, so people would certainly scramble to get these eggs.
Swans appear across literary channels as symbols of luxury or spiritual transformation. The fact that these swans are already “a-swimming” suggests they (35 by the song’s end) were gifted for luxurious means. They were probably adding to the beauty of a picturesque pond, with some dramatic weeping willows, and a gazebo for spin the bottle – or whatever romantic stuff you do in a gazebo.
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Here is where the song gets definitively practical. Milkmaids milked the cows and responsible for producing cream, butter and cheese. They were a valuable and necessary part of 18th century agrarian life. Although at this point, I think the farm could use a bird keeper more than anything.
Those applying religious symbol
ism to the song denote the nine dancing ladies as the nine Christian Fruits of the Spirit. In secular meaning they would just be women dancing – but not like that! Live entertainment was a necessary part of Christmas feasts. Also, it may have been like that.
Because of how material the other gifts of the song are, we can assume “lord” is meant less as an official government title and more like Lord of the Dance. Think of these footy fellas as act two following the Ladies Dancing.
This is the Classical Music period when single reed instruments (clarinets, bagpipes, etc.) became more popular, largely thanks to Mozart. So not only were there more pipes that ever; people were pretty excited about piping ’em! Add another point to the “this ‘true love’ person” must be LOADED count.
These drummers would have been pounding away on rope tension bass and snare drums (the same ones you’ve seen in any Revolutionary War battle scenes.) And from the sound of it, they would have been coming in late to a pretty righteous party.
By the time the final “Partridge in a Pear Tree” is presented, our “true love” has given to thee 438 gifts; and not a single one was a fruitcake or coupon for a backrub. Fully redecorating your true love’s space would probably be about as unwelcome as giving them 36 calling birds, but cabinet knobs and pulls are the perfect way to update your kitchen or bath without the sledge hammer. Deck your halls without decking your walls and check out some top brands today.