12 days

Twelve Days of Livestock

The Twelve Days of Christmas, as all right-thinking people know, begin with the birth of Christ on the First Day of Christmas, and continue through twelve days of increasing celebration until January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, known in the West as Epiphany.

The peculiar carol entitled "Twelve Days of Christmas" envisions sending gifts to one's sweetheart on each day of the festal period, in increasing numbers. However it seems little thought has been given to the desirability or indeed the legality of shipping so many living creatures, especially at midwinter, when the back of the delivery van is likely to be quite cold.

Amid the daily deliveries of hens, swans, drummers, and so on, has anyone tallied the sheer number of items/animals the singer's True Love is to receive? Now we have.


By the end of the day on Epiphany, the singer's True Love will have received twelve drummers, twenty-two pipers, thirty lords, thirty-six ladies, forty maids, leading to likely charges of human trafficking, as well as one huundred eighty-four live birds, including a round dozen partidges (pear trees likely delivered separately owing to labor shortages) for a total of three hundred sixty-four FedEx packages stacked on the front porch.

One must wonder if the True Love has at any point indicated that his/her “Love Language” involves mail-order delivery, bird menageries, or multiple drummers?

Faroe Stamps

Highly relevant update: In the Faroe Islands, there is a comparable counting Christmas song. The gifts include: one feather, two geese, three sides of meat, four sheep, five cows, six oxen, seven dishes, eight ponies, nine banners, ten barrels, eleven goats, twelve men, thirteen hides, fourteen rounds of cheese and fifteen deer.

These were illustrated in 1994 by local cartoonist Óli Petersen (born 1936) on a series of two stamps issued by the Faroese Philatelic Office, illustrating only a portion of the havoc wrought upon one's True Love by the inundation of mail-order livestock.

I trust this helps make your Yuletide even more spiritually and sentimentally fulfilling.

Fr Silouan Thompson

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