By Norma Adams-Wade
Today, December 24, is Christmas Eve. A lot is wrapped up in this day—spiritual beliefs, traditions, family togetherness, hustle & bustle of last-minute shopping. For some, it’s a day off from their nine-to five job or, at least, time off early from the workday. The traditions of Christmas are plentiful and varied, depending on culture, country and religion. Among the traditions is a very familiar holiday Christmas Carol that has one of the most complicated histories I have run across in many moons. The song is the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
A brief version of the song’s complex history dates back to the 18th century. Research does not confirm but indicates that the song began in France as a children’s game of memory in the form of a chant or rhyme without music. Children who forgot or omitted some of the gifts were out of the game. Ultimately the rhyme was published, still without music, in England in 1780. Historians say that more than a century later, English composer Frederic Austin put the rhyme to music in 1909 using a traditional English folk melody. A study of the carol’s various “gifts” shows that they varied over time depending on which one of about a dozen different writers was recording the lyrics in their publications about old English carols, also known as ditties, ballads or folk songs.
In English composer Austin’s more traditional version the gifts include a partridge, turtle doves, French hens, calling (or “colly” meaning black) birds, gold rings, geese, swans, milking maids, ladies dancing, leaping Lords, pipers, and drummers. Equally interesting is the meaning behind the 12 days. Some religious customs observe 12 days of feasts either beginning on Christmas, December 25, or on the day after Christmas, December 26. The feast days end 12 days later either on January 5 or January 6. Christmas Day generally is considered the first day of Christmas. Each subsequent day is the first, second, third day, etc., until January 5 or 6 that is the twelfth day. I was just thinking…if those early English composers can vary the gifts to fit their holiday mood, so can I. Here are my personal 12 days of Christmas gifts.
• 1st day: I get harmony between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
• 2nd: No hunger in the world.
• 3rd: An end to wars and global conflicts, particularly between Israel and Palestine and throughout the Middle East and Afghanistan in Asia.
• 4th: Prison reform, including truth justice for all—not injustice for “just us.”
• 5th: The world truly believing that Black Lives do Matter.
• 6th: An end to bullying.
• 7th: Kids learning to love reading books again.
• 8th: Reliable cures for clinical depression and drug addiction.
• 9th: The National Rifle Association (NRA) will lose its grip on lawmakers and gun violence will greatly diminish. (I do not mind gun ownership, just the unrestrained violence from weak gun control laws.)
• 10th: An end to physical and sexual abuse of women and children of both genders.
• 11th: Less movie and TV violence and sex and more plots that entertain without those frills used purely for shock value.
• 12th: And on my 12th Day of Christmas, please present me with a successful Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration that history will record as the trailblazer for a better world that we clearly see on the horizon.
Norma Adams-Wade is a veteran, award-winning Journalist, a graduate of UT-Austin and Dallas native. She is also one of the founders of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and was inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame.