Kamilah Taylor
Oh the memories of annoying the grown-ups with singing this song in the car...it's the song that doesn't end. The weird thing is that by the time you got to the eighth day of Christmas you were usually running out of breath and your mouth was dry but you persisted in singing. So where does it come from and why is it my song of the day?

Welcome to the Christmas edition of my new song of the day feature. I'm counting down to my favorite holiday by attempting to pare down my many favorite christmas songs down to 12...it will be tricky, but I shall persevere.

When I started to do some research on this post, I was surprised to find that there is apparently a religious interpretation of this song. The Twelve Days apparently refer to the days starting with December 26th (Boxing Day) to January 6th (the Day before The Epiphany). In popular culture however, this usually refers to the twelve days leading up to Christmas.

There are many traditional versions of this song. Burl Ives' version comes to mind as a definition of the traditional twelve days, but being Jamaican, I'm also a fan of Harry Belefonte's. Classical music lovers will definitely appreciate Leonard Bernstein's Twelve Days, it's definitely the grandest, complete with a choir and full orchestra.

Edit: I forgot to mention a mostly unknown instrumental version of this by Byron Lee & The Dragonaires, you can listen to it here: Twelve Days Of Xmas/ O Come All Ye Faithful/ First Noel (Medley). For some reason it's not played on the Jamaican radio as often as some of the other songs on this album...listening to it I can almost picture myself at home in the warmth.

The parodies of this song are the best versions. My two favorites are Natalie Cole's version and Frank Kelly's Christmas Countdown. My Jamaican readers will all know Christmas Countdown, the Irish version of Twelve Days (affectionately known as Dear Nola). (Edit: I was told I should mention that the Christmas season has not officially begun in Jamaica until you hear this song.)
 I spent many years trying to find this, and finally found out that it's actually called Christmas Countdown (thank you wikipedia!). This always plays on the radio at Christmas time. Nola in modern days would be charged with harassment or something. Just look at the progression of the beginning of each verse, the brilliance!

"Dear Nola, thank you very much for your gift of a partridge in the pear tree..." "Day 2: Dear Nola, I cannot tell you how surprised we were to hear from you again..." "Day 3: Dear Nola, we must be foremost in your thoughts!" "Day 4: Dear Nola, you mus'nt of received my last letter when you sent us the four birds..." "Day 5: Dear Nola, your generosity knows no bounds!" "Day 6: Nola, what are you trying to do to us?" "Day 7: Nola, we are not amused by your little joke..." "Day 8: Nola, who the hell do you think gave you the right to send eight hefty maids a milking to eat us out of house and home?" "Day 9: Listen you louser!" "Day 10: Listen manure face!" "Day 11: You have scandalized my mother you dutty Jezebel!" "Day 12: Listen slurry head, you have ruined our lives!"

Poor man. He's in need of counseling by the end of the song. "Me mother is in a home for the bewildered and I'm sitting here up to me neck in valium...whiskey...I'm a broken man!"

More Frank Kelly music on iLike

My other favorite surprises you in it's funniness. Natalie Cole starts off like she's singing the normal Twelve Days, and then you get the ninth day, where this poor woman's patience just starts to run out, first of repeating the choruses, then with her true love. It runs off the assumption that with each verse, everything is accumulating. When I was younger this really appealed to the math geek in me. I have many fond memories of my sister and I rocking out to this one, in a stereotypical singing into your hairbrush type scene =) [Think The Stepmom Ain't No Mountain High Enough].

The eleventh and twelfth day have this wonderful dramatic anticipation. Who wants eleven ladies dancing from their boyfriend? And what do you do with twelve lords a leaping? I love her little rant at the end of the song. "I am so out of here! I mean, what ever happened to diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds... shoes, clothes, a car? I need a new boyfriend."

Runners up: Capitol Steps and The Chipmunks! The jokes in the Twelve Days of Clinton are a little out of date, but the Chipmunks are timeless. Just don't get me started on that movie.

Youtube videos of songs mentioned in this post [that I could find]:

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3 Responses
  1. Kyoudai Says:

    Home isn't as warm as it used to be. The Frank Kelly version is a must every Christmas :D

  2. kami Says:

    Home is warmer than it is here, that's for sure!

  3. Kyoudai Says:

    that IS true. 17 is better than -17

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