On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me…
12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
9 Ladies Dancing
5 Golden Rings (gold rings)
4 Colly Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.
NOTE: Though it is commonly mispronounced and wrongly written today, the 4th day of Christmas is a colly bird. This is an old nickname for a common European blackbird.
The First Noël or just Noël is a carol who’s origins are mostly unknown. There are so many different stories that it is near impossible to find the truth.
The form we know comes from Cornwall and was first published in Carols Ancient and Modern (1823) and Gilbert and Sandys’ Christmas Carols (1833), both were edited by William B. Sandys and had extra parts written by Davies Gilbert.
The song is The First Nowell, but the name has been written, inconsistently with the original, as The First Noël for quite a while. Noël has become standard but the name is Nowell traditionally, and I don’t believe it has been officially changed.
The First Noël
The first Noël the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep:
Noël, Noël, Noël, Noël,
Born is the King of Israel.
They looked up and saw a star,
Shining in the east, beyond them far:
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night:
And by the light of that same star,
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wheresoever it went:
This star drew nigh to the north-west;
O’er Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay
Right over the place where Jesus lay:
Then entered in those Wise Men three,
Fell reverently upon their knee,
And offered there in his presence,
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense:
Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of nought,
And with his blood mankind hath bought: