A partridge in a pear tree: The partridge is Jesus Christ, symbolically represented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless young. This recalls Jesus’ sadness over Jerusalem’s fate. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34, NKJV)
Read Luke 13:34 together and discuss the fate of anyone who does not have Christ as his Savior, His injury and death on the cross to pay for the death we deserved, and how much Jesus desires us to come to Him for His love and protection.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Two turtledoves: This represents the Old and New Testaments, together bearing witness to God’s revelation of Himself in history. Luke 2:22-24 also mentions turtledoves sacrificed according to law when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord as the first-born male.
Discuss how God reveals Himself in his Word and that the Old and New Testaments are not divided from each other but are one revelation pointing us to Christ (Isaiah 53:1–12; Psalm 22: 1, 13, 16, 18; Psalm 34:20; Psalm 69:21; Genesis 3:15; many more). Depending on your children’s ages, use a reference and study further Christ in the Old Testament.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Three French hens: This represents the three virtues—faith, hope, and love. “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13, NJKV).
Read I Corinthians 13:13 together. How can you make Christmas more about love and faith rather than gifts under the tree? What ways can you grow in your faith, hope, and love in the coming year?
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Four calling birds: The four calling birds are the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They proclaim the Good News that God has reconciled His people to Himself in Jesus Christ.
Read the Gospel stories about Christ’s birth and death. Discuss how your family can be “calling birds” to share the Good News with others in the coming year.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Five gold rings: The five gold rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament, called the Pentateuch—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books give the history of humanity’s sin and God’s response of grace in giving a light to the world through the Jews, His chosen people.
Show your children the first five books of the Bible if they are not familiar with them. Read a summary of each book, usually found at the beginning of the book or in a study Bible. Discuss what it means that Israel is God’s chosen race and note that Jesus was born a Jew.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Six geese a-laying: Represented in six geese laying (an act of creation of life) is the six days of Creation when God, the Creator and Sustainer, created the world (Genesis 1).
Read Genesis 1:1–31, 2:1–7. Discuss how God is the author of life and that we live and breathe because He created us and sustains us.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Seven swans a-swimming: Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is represented as the seven swans a-swimming. 1) Prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion as noted in Romans 12:6–8 and I Corinthians 12: 8–11).
What gifts has the Holy Spirit given to members of your family? Read I Corinthians 12:12–26 together and discuss why we all need each other and how we can accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, each with different gifts.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Eight maids a-milking: The eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–10) are represented with eight maids a-milking. 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit 2) those who mourn 3) the meek 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness 5) the merciful 6) the pure in heart 7) the peacemakers and 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Read Matthew 5:1–10 together. Talk about each Beatitude and what Christ taught about each one.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Nine ladies dancing: Galatians 5:22 states nine fruit of the Holy Spirit that the nine ladies dancing represents—1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control.
Read Galatians 5: 22–26 together. Encourage each family member to name one fruit that he or she sees in another family member. Then let each family member name a fruit that he needs to grow in his (or her) life in the coming year. Give each a 3×5 card to record their name and that beatitude. Post the cards somewhere noticeable (family bulletin board, fridge, bathroom mirror, etc.). Other family members should praise any family member any time they see someone growing in their stated fruit of the Spirit.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Ten lords a-leaping: Ten lords represent the Ten Commandments. 1) You shall have no other gods before me. 2) Do not make an idol. 3) Do not take God’s name in vain. 4) Remember the Sabbath Day. 5) Honor your father and mother. 6) Do not murder. 7) Do not commit adultery. 8) Do not steal. 9) Do not bear false witness. 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20: 1–17)
Read Exodus 20:1–17 together. Explain any terms your children may not be familiar with (i.e., take a name in vain, adultery, false witness, and covet). Memorize Exodus 20:1–17 together. For young children or if you want a shortened version to remember at first, memorize the list above. Graduate to the full Scripture as you practice.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Eleven pipers piping: These pipers are the eleven faithful apostles in Luke 6:14–16:
- Simon Peter
- James son of Alphaeus
- Simon the Zealot
- Judas son of James
Read Luke 6:14–16 together. Did God call any additional men as apostles after Jesus’ death and resurrection? (Acts 1:23–26, Acts 14:14, Acts 13:2, Romans 11:13). Discuss the difference in an apostle and a disciple.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Twelve drummers drumming: Twelve drummers drumming are the twelve doctrine points in the Apostle’s Creed: 1) I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and 2) in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; 3) who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, 4) suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; 5) the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; 6) from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Ghost; 8) the holy catholic Church; 9) the communion of saints; 10) the forgiveness of sins; 11) the resurrection of the body; and 12) the life everlasting. Amen.
The Apostle’s Creed is a basic expression of Christian beliefs—a summary of sorts—possibly from the first or second century, but in the traditional version, likely the fourth century. Many Christian denominations recite the Apostle’s Creed with only very small word variations.
It is not the purpose here to promote a particular church or denomination, but this church website does a good job of explaining each part of the creed. Choose to use it or not to explain the various parts of the creed to your children. Whether or not your church uses the Apostle’s Creed, memorize it as a family to teach the basic foundational beliefs of the faith.