A partridge in a pear tree‚Ä¶
In Germany it was customary to plant a pear tree for every girl born into a family. The longevity and fruitfulness were thought to give strength to the children.
Two turtle doves‚Ä¶
The turtle dove is said to get its name from the fact that the markings on its wings and back look like a tortoise. These birds spend the winter months south of the Sahara desert and when visiting the UK in the summer months are more often heard than seen.
Three French hens‚Ä¶
Three breeds of French hens are the Faverolle, La Fleche and, probably the most familiar, the Marans. The latter is a large speckled (known as ‚Äúcuckoo‚Äù colouring) bird that lays the most beautiful chocolate coloured eggs. The true French Marans has feathered legs, but the English strain has bare pins.
Four calling birds‚Ä¶
No, it‚Äôs not the Wiggly sales team! The word calling is a corruption of the old English word colly (or collie) which means black and comes from the word for coal. So the song would have originally read, ‚ÄúFour black birds‚Äù or indeed, as some people believe, ‚ÄúFour blackbirds‚Äù.
Five gold rings‚Ä¶
Rings have been given as tokens of affection for over 2000 years and played their part in betrothal ceremonies and given as gifts between friends, often bearing elaborate engravings. Examples of very small rings have been found that were believed to have been worn by early Christians on the tops of their little fingers.
Six geese a laying‚Ä¶
The laying season for geese runs from March to July. Geese eggs are about three times the size of standard hens‚Äô eggs and are wonderful either scrambled or used in omelettes.
Seven swans a swimming‚Ä¶
All unmarked mute swans are owned by the Crown and once a year, on the Thames, a census is taken. This ceremony is called Swan Upping and is carried out by the Queen‚Äôs Swan Marker and the Swan Uppers using traditional Thames rowing skiffs. The cygnets are weighed, measured and given a general health check.
Eight Maids a Milking‚Ä¶
In Victorian times milkmaids would milk cows either in the fields in summer or the cowshed at other times of the year. They used a three legged stool as these provided greater stability on uneven ground. The seats of these stools were normally carved from elm and the legs turned in ash.
Nine Ladies Dancing‚Ä¶
In Regency times dances provided the chance for young men and women to meet suitable husbands and wives. It was normal for partners to dance two consecutive dances together, which collectively would last for about half an hour. Probably enough time to decide whether your partner was a catch or not!
Ten Lords a Leaping‚Ä¶
The word lord originates from the old English word ‚Äúhlaf-weard‚Äù which literally translated means loaf-ward or keeper of bread. In Anglo-Saxon times growing wheat and making bread were of such importance that the warden or keeper would have been a person of high-standing within the community.
Eleven Pipers Piping‚Ä¶
In Scotland it is traditional for pipers to play the bagpipes outside, however, in England it was customary for the pipes to be played inside.
Twelve Drummers Drumming‚Ä¶
A long held British tradition is the celebration of the coming of Spring in the form of the May Day celebrations. Before the advent of the well known maypole with ribbons, dancers would dance around a felled hawthorn, usually erected in the village centre, with musicians playing accordions, blowing whistle-pipes and banging drums.