Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Twelve Days: Partidges and Parties

The third and final article in a series on the Twelve Days festival of ancient Earth.

While the meaning and theme of the Twelve Days focused on the arrival of Santa Claus and avoiding his harmful touch, it must be remembered that the season was, in fact, a festival. Perhaps as an act of defiance-- to show that evil could not intimidate them--celebrants escalated their festivities from day to day.

A popular song, variations of which still persist, describes the increasing celebrations in terms of food, family, and frivolity. On the first night the meal's main course consists of a single partridge (a small game bird probably considered a delicacy). On subsequent nights the size of the bird steadily increases, as does the number served. Two pigeons, three game hens, and so on, until finally there are seven magestic roast swans on the table.

The sumptuous fare is, of course, matched by a swelling in the ranks of those called in to help eat it. While the partridge the first evening was perfect for an intimate dinner with "my true love," the couple is joined by more and more people each night. Presumably these guests are their immediate and extended family, followed by other friends and connections. The crowd grows so large that nine dance floors and, by the twelfth day, a dozen different musicians are required to provide simultaneous entertainment for the gathering.

It appears that an element of gift-giving was also fundamental to the festivities. In particular, the author of the song rejoices that his/her true love presented him/her with a gold ring for each finger of the hand. There may have been significance to this specific gift relating to protection from the coming fires, as there are references that gold rings were immune to all but the most intense of flames. However, it is clear that this spirit of giving spilled over into general expressions of thoughtfulness and celebration. I like to consider this evidence that the human spirit will imbue any event with goodness and kindness, even one that revolves around such a frightening character as Santa Claus.

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