And a partridge in a pear tree…

We’re all familiar with The Twelve Days of Christmas, maybe to the point where we don’t really listen to the words. Did you ever stop and realize that there are a lot of birds in that song? Think about it…

  • 7 swans a swimming
  • 6 geese a laying
  • 4 calling birds (probably originally “colly” birds)
  • 3 French hens
  • 2 turtle doves
  • and a partridge in a pear tree

According to Wikipedia, “Textual evidence indicates that the song was not English in origin, but French, though it is considered an English carol.” French or English, the birds are therefore European species, unfamiliar to Americans. Would we have wanted these birds as Christmas gifts?