I’M JUST CURIOUS: 12 birds of Christmas

by Debbie Walker

Merry Christmas! What does that have to do with all those birds in the song The 12 Days of Christmas? What’s the story behind that? Well, I just read about all this in, yes, The Farmer’s Almanac newsletter.

I learned it was first published in England in 1780, most likely as a lyrical poem much earlier. It became a song in 1909. But I was more interested in the birds.

The first gift was a “partridge in a pear tree”. This bird would have been around in the holiday season. The pear tree is a gift of food. They perch and roost in the trees, but they won’t eat the fruit as they eat grains and seeds. The fruit is harvested in the fall but stored, can last into the winter. Two bountiful gifts.

Two turtle doves are the second day. The doves in a pair would have been a good gift because may breed and be meals in the future.

Three French Hens could lay as many as 900 eggs per year! They could be eaten, sold, or allowed to hatch and young chickens to be used for meal or even more egg production. Food and possible income again.

Four Calling Birds are believed to be the Eurasian blackbird. A thrush with a wonderful sound. It would just be for singing, I guess.

Five Gold Rings you might consider bird banding, also called bird ringing. Not much else to say.

Six Geese A-Laying would be another form of animal, food gift. This gift probably was for the meat but could also be the feathers of resulting flock as goose down for winter wear and insulation. It would be ideal for a holiday gift for the coldest season.

Seven Swans A-Swimming aren’t specially noted as laying, they were most likely a gift of luxury. Swans are a symbol or romance and elegance.

Oh yeah then there were 8 Maids a Milking, 9 Lord’s a Leaping, 11 Piper’s Piping takes us back to birds, and you would probably find them on the beach. They are actually Piping Plovers.

Obviously the birds represented a richness and symbolism of the carol.

Done with birds and on to Poinsettia, the seasonal plant associated with Christmas.

Poinsettia are the number one potted plant sold in the USA today.

They are not toxic to children or humans but if a child ate 500 leaves that would be unsafe (!!). They are mildly poisonous to cats and dogs.

They come in many colors and are now available in marbled, striped or spotted tones.

I have two Poinsettia plants growing in my flower garden right now. It started blossoming about a month ago. Well, not so much of blossoming as the green leaves beginning to turn red. It is almost as tall as me now. I have seen them locally growing as high as the eaves on a single story house.

I am just curious if you have any curiosity about traditions. Share them, please. Remember in the next week to get your sleep, eat good meals and breath! The “busyness” won’t last much longer so find some way to relax and enjoy! Do what you can do and don’t worry about the rest.

Contact me at DebbieWalker@townline.org with any questions or comments. Thanks for reading and enjoy your week.


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