Birds in Hymns – Carol of the Birds – Again

Five years ago, this Birds in Hymns was re-posted, now the re-post has had some broken links fixed. I also, added the Video for the music. Now that Thanksgiving is winding down, it’s time to start thinking about Carols again. Enjoy the revised revision. :)

American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) singing by J Fenton

American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) singing by J Fenton

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

Written as – El Cant Dels Ocells – Traditional Catalonian Carol

Translator Unknown

Birds in Christmas Hymns

Carol of the Birds

1. Upon this holy night,

When God’s great star appears,
And floods the earth with brightness
Birds’ voices rise in song
And warbling all night long
Express their glad heart’s lightness
Birds’ voices rise in song
And warbling all night long
Express their glad heart’s lightness

Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus mexicanus) by Michael Woodruff

Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus mexicanus) by Michael Woodruff

2. The Nightingale is first
To bring his song of cheer,
And tell us of His glad – ness:
Jesus, our Lord, is born
To free us from all sin
And banish ev’ry sadness!
Jesus, our Lord is born
To free us from all sin
And banish ev’ry sadness!

Savannah Sparrow singing by Ray

Savannah Sparrow singing by Ray

3. The answ’ring Sparrow cries:
“God comes to earth this day
Amid the angels flying.”
Trilling in sweetest tones,
The Finch his Lord now owns:
“To Him be all thanksgiving.”
Trilling in sweetest tones,
The Finch his Lord now owns:
“To Him be all thanksgiving.”

Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara koenigi) Pixdaus

Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara koenigi) Pixdaus

4. The Partridge adds his note:
“To Bethlehem I’ll fly,
Where in the stall He’s lying.
There, near the manger blest,
I’ll build myself a nest,
And sing my love undying.
There, near the manger blest,
I’ll build myself a nest,
And sing my love undying.

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Found another version of the Carol of the Birds and it appears to be Australian Birds.

The Carol of the Birds
(Wheeler/James)

Brolga (Grus rubicunda) by Ian

Brolga (Grus rubicunda) by Ian

Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing
Lifting their feet like warhorses prancing
Up to the sun the woodlarks go winging
Faint in the dawn light echoes their singing
Crana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day.

Crested Bellbird (Oreoica gutturalis) by Ian

Crested Bellbird (Oreoica gutturalis) by Ian

Down where the tree ferns grow by the river
There where the waters sparkle and quiver
Deep in the gullies bell-birds are chiming
Softly and sweetly their lyric notes rhyming
Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day.

Silver-crowned Friarbird (Philemon argenticeps) by Ian

Silver-crowned Friarbird (Philemon argenticeps) by Ian

Friar birds sip the nectar of flowers
Currawongs chant in wattle tree bowers
In the blue ranges lorikeets calling
Carols of bush birds rising and falling
Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day.
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More Birds in Hymns

See ~ Share The Gospel

Most information from The Hymns and Carols of Christmas – Name of Hymn with Link to it

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) ©WikiC

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) ©WikiC

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a cumulative song, meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by “my true love” on one of the twelve days of Christmas. (I took a few liberties with the photos)

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth. (Proverbs 17:8 KJV)

In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him. (Ecclesiastes 7:14 KJV)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (12 Days of Christmas) 

Music From The Twelve Days of Christmas Website

12 Days of Christmas – Manheim Steamroller arrangement

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Faverolles - French Hen and Cock - ©WikiC

Faverolles - French Hen and Cock - ©WikiC

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) by Ian

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) by Ian

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) Endangered Juvenile ©BirdPhotos.com

Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) Endangered Juvenile ©BirdPhotos.com

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Five golden rings,
Four (Culley) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) at nest ©USFWS

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) at nest ©USFWS

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Swans at BokTower

Swans at Bok Tower by Dan

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) - One Greater Flamingo-chick in Zoo Basel is fed on crop milk.

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) - chick in Zoo Basel is fed on crop milk.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) ©GNU

Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) ©GNU

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Lord Derby's Parakeet (Psittacula derbiana) by Wilhelma Zoo Stuttgart ©WikiC

Lord Derby's Parakeet (Psittacula derbiana) by Wilhelma Zoo Stuttgart ©WikiC

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) by Ray

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) by Ray

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four (Cully) calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

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Below is some of the information about how the song came about and some of the different interpretations of it. I especially like the idea that the 12 days represent different aspects of Christianity. The fact that it was a code is not verifiable, does not diminish its relationship to twelve things.  I took a few liberties with the photos, but was trying to use birds for the days. Pushed a few of them, but trust you enjoy my efforts.

“Meaning

The lyrics of The Twelve Days of Christmas may have no meaning at all. Its meaning, if it has any, has yet to be satisfactorily explained.

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, “Suggestions have been made that the gifts have significance, as representing the food or sport for each month of the year. Importance [certainly has] long been attached to the Twelve Days, when, for instance, the weather on each day was carefully observed to see what it would be in the corresponding month of the coming year. Nevertheless, whatever the ultimate origin of the chant, it seems probable [that] the lines that survive today both in England and France are merely an irreligious travesty.”

A bit of modern folklore claims that the song’s lyrics were written as a “catechism song” to help young Catholics learn their faith, at a time when practising Catholicism was criminalized in England (1558 until 1829). There is no primary evidence supporting this claim, and no evidence that the claim is historical, or “anything but a fanciful modern day speculation.” The theory is of relatively recent origin. It was first suggested by Canadian English teacher and hymnologist Hugh D. McKellar in a short article, “How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas,” published in 1979. In a later article published in the music journal The Hymn, he reiterates that the associations are his. The idea was further popularized by a Catholic priest, Fr. Hal Stockert, in an article he wrote in 1982 and posted online in 1995.

Variations in lyrics provide further evidence against the “catechism song” origin. For example, the four Gospels are often described as the “four calling birds,” when in fact the phrase “calling birds” is a modern (probably 20th century) phonetic misunderstanding of “colly birds” (blackbirds).

Regardless of the origin of this idea, a number of Christians give the following meanings to the gifts:

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a Catechism Song
Gift Interpretation
A partridge in a pear tree Jesus
Two turtle doves The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens The three kings bearing gifts
Four calling [sic] birds The four Gospels
Five gold rings The Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament
Six geese a-laying The six days of Creation
Seven swans a-swimming Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milking The eight Beatitudes
Nine ladies dancing Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords a-leaping The Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers piping The eleven faithful Apostles
Twelve drummers drumming The twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed


(From The Twelve Days of Christmas – Wikipedia)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23 KJV)

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV)

See Also:
Twelve Days of Christmas – Notes on  the Festival and the Carol for quite a bit of history on the song and other versions.

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