This is the third in an 11 part series on The Twelve Days of Christmas, go here to read part one.
“On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.”
Before I get to the “calling birds,” I want to give you a Renaissance timeline of what the winter holidays looked like. A lot of the celebration was rooted and based on secular traditions.
- October 31–All Hallow’s Eve (Now called Halloween)-This began the Winter Festival.
- December 25–Christmas Day-Celebrated as Christ birthday
- January 1–New Year’s Day
- January 5-Twelfth Night–12 Nights after Christmas
- January 6—Epiphany-(Explained more later)-End of the Winter Festival
Epiphany is such a special day that I want to dedicate a blog to that.
Now, on to “the four calling birds.”
In the original version of the song, the wording was not “calling birds,” but “colly birds.” It wasn’t until the 1900’s that the wording was changed.” Colly birds are actually blackbirds. All of this hearkens back to the old nursery rhyme, “Sing a Song of Six Pence,” about blackbirds baked in a pie. In England on Twelfth Night it was tradition to play practical jokes on each other, and one was placing colly birds in a pie case. When the case was opened the birds would sing.
The Four Calling Birds–The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and/or the four Evangelist