Christmas is the greatest holiday in the year, celebrating the birth of the greatest Person who ever lived. Yet, every year, there are numerous high profile attacks on Christmas as the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. There are also many insidious attempts to hijack Christmas. One such attempt is seen in the many e-mails circulating concerning the real meaning and origin of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
What is the Source?
According to this widely circulated email: "from 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the church. Each element in the carol is a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember."
The problem with this theory is that it's premise is false. Roman Catholics were not persecuted for their faith. They were not forbidden to practice their faith openly. The dates chosen are most interesting. 1558, is the year when Bloody Mary died and the Catholic persecution of Protestants in England came to an end. Mary Tudor was well called "Bloody Mary" because she repudiated the religious freedoms which her brother, King Edward VI, had instituted. Mary passed laws providing for Protestant "heretics" to be tried in church courts and handed over to civilian authorities for execution.