The twelve days of Trove-mas
Celebrating Christmas, Trove-style.
18 December 2014
My favourite Christmas album is Disney’s Christmas All-Time Favourites. We had the vinyl LP when I was very young, and then later the CD version. It’s just not Christmas until I've listened to it. My favourite song on the album has to be the Twelve Days of Christmas, which features Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and other Disney characters.
The Twelve Days of Christmas is enduringly popular. For those who don’t know this carol, it enumerates each of the days of Christmas with increasingly outlandish gifts. It has been around a long time, first published in England in 1780 without music, as a chant or rhyme. According to the Freeman’s Journal in 1909 it was deemed 'another curious local carol [that] is still favored in Somersetshire occasionally'. In 1925 the Brisbane Courier used the same words and suggested that the song ‘as an old Christmas jingle is well worth preservation’.
I thought it was interesting that the gifts on the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth days are in a different order now than they were back then. Also, in 1909, the gift on the fourth day goes from collie dogs, to collie birds in 1925, and as we know it now, calling birds.
How does this carol relate to Trove? Well, it turns out you can find all the gifts in the song in Trove.
- Twelve drummers drumming
- Eleven pipers piping
- Ten lords leaping
- Nine ladies dancing
- Eight maids are milking
- Seven swans are swimming
- Six geese a-laying—apparently, six geese would lay approximately 100 eggs
- Five golden rings—for the five weddings that happened all in one day in Forbes in 1916!
- Four calling birds
- Three French hens
- Two turtle doves
But just how much would all these gifts have cost the poor soul giving them? Horan, Wall, and Walker estimated it to be over $21,000 in the Canberra Times on 15 December 1985.
And what would the impact of all these gifts be? Where do you put that many geese as they are a-laying? And who feeds the maids and the drummers? Another story from the Canberra Times on 13 December 1981 thought it was enough to break up the (fictional) relationship.
If these gifts aren't for you, perhaps you'd prefer to get fit during the twelve days? Eight maids a-milking (it's cardio, sort of!)...
The Library's Matthew Stuckings, has written a great post about the Australian carols in the collection and their history. But what is your favourite Christmas carol? Can you find things in Trove that relate to it?
Two girls singing Christmas carols, New South Wales, ca. 1930. Pictures Collection, http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/206927346
The Trove team wishes everyone a happy holiday and a fantastic new year. Happy holiday Trove-ing. We'll see you here in January with more stories to tell and tips to share.
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