What is "The Twelve Days of Christmas" about?

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A very popular email always circulates about this time of year that claims the Twelve Days of Christmas carol was actually a secret message created by Catholics so they could still practice their faith during the days when the Anglican church strictly controlled England. This claim, however, is completely false.  The true origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas focuses on the twelve days which take place from December 25th to January 6th, marking the time from Christ's birth to the Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the Wise Men.   The song really celebrates what most people believe it to be about--merry gift giving and dancing.  Some of the original words have been altered over the years.  For example, the four "calling" birds were originally 'collie' birds, meaning black birds.  Moreover, musical historians suggest that the five golden rings might actually refer to birds with rings around their necks, like pheasants. 

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