The Twelve days of Christmas is, of course, the lyrics to the song we all know. It's value is not in the words but in the exquisite illustrations.
My gripe is with the 'Editors Note" in which they claim the song is "pagan in tone". I don't think it was necessary to comment on the origins or the tone and I think that needless bit of commentary turned me off to the book as we Catholics believe something else entirely:
From 1558 until 1829 Roman Catholics in England were barred from openly practicing their faith. The carol was written as a catechism song for Young Catholics:
The "True Love" one hears in the song is not a smitten boy or girlfriend but Jesus Christ, because truly Love was born on Christmas Day. The partridge in the pear tree also represents Him because that bird is willing to sacrifice its life if necessary to protect its young by feigning injury to draw away predators.
According to Ann Ball in her book, HANDBOOK OF CATHOLIC SACRAMENTALS:
The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments
The three French hens stood for faith, hope, and love.
The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The five golden rings rerepresented the first five books of the Old Testament, which describe man's fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Savior.
The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit-----Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit-----Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience [Forbearance], Goodness [Kindness], Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continency [Chastity].
The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful Apostles.
The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles' Creed.
4 stars for Jan Brett's illustrations.
<1 star for the editor butting in. (less)