Legend has it that ‘The 12 Days of Christmas‘ was written during a time of persecution in England between 1558 and 1829 as a Catechism song for young Catholics who were forbidden to practice their faith.
Each number signifies a teaching of the Catholic faith.
The song can be understood on two different levels:
1) The literal meaning of the words, which appear harmless enough to a stranger, and
2) The hidden meaning behind those words, which expressed the religious beliefs of a people who could have been killed on account of their Catholic faith.
Here’s each suspected meaning:
1) Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church
2) The 12 Days of Christmas Isn’t a Secret Catechism – Here’s Why We Should Claim It Anyway (Ascension Press)
3) Origin of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ (EWTN)