We’ve all been humming along to a familiar Christmas song for weeks now. You know it: “five goooolden rings!” Here at the Pear Bureau, we even commemorate the holiday season with our Partridge in a Pear Tree ornament (see above). But what is that reference all about, anyway?
I’ve seen people in pear trees and even bears in pear trees, but never, ever a partridge, so I decided to investigate this mysterious Christmas lyric. Here’s what I found: Nothing is clear about this song. It is English and/or French in origin. It may be a memory game, a catechism lesson, or maybe it was supposed to be all about birds. Let me break it down for you:
- It was first known as a song – an English carol, most likely – that was played as a memory game. As players added verses with each day, the player who made a mistake had to pay a price, offering the others a kiss or a sweet.
- BUT…if you take the song literally, then it likely comes from France, because the red-legged (French) partridge would be more likely to sit in trees than the native (common) partridge. Also, the words “in a pear tree” may be a mix-up of the French term for partridge, une perdrix, pronounced “per-dree,” which would make the line: “A partridge, une perdrix.”
- Are you with me still?
- A more modern theory claims that the song is a catechism lesson, meant to teach children some core tenets of the Catholic faith. This theory states that the partridge in a pear tree symbolizes Jesus Christ.
- iTunes commemorates the 12 Days of Christmas with a fun app that offers a free gift from December 26 through January 6…but only in the UK. Because it’s where the carol originated?
I am thoroughly confused.
However you celebrate the holidays, all of us at Pear Bureau Northwest wish you and your family all the best of the season. Cheers!