The twelve days of Christmas

I referred to the song The Twelve Days of Christmas in an earlier entry. Before that, I saw the term ‘candy striping’ in an entry by Gail at openbrackets. Candy striping seems to mean doing good deeds (but in North American English).

Both candy striping and the twelve days of Christmas are dealt with at, the Urban Legends Reference Pages. Neither of those convey a hidden Christian message. (Candy canes are an American thing).


(Picture from here).

Of course, I was really interested in what the presents do mean. Apparently calling birds should be colly birds (coal-black?), meaning blackbirds, and even five gold rings refers to five ring-necked pheasants.

LATER NOTE: In a comment, Mark Liberman of language log points out that I am wrong about ‘candy stripe’. Candy stripe comes from the candy-striped pinafore dresses (called in America jumpers!) worn by hospital volunteers (apparently with a smile, see Wikipedia entry). It looks as if candystriping is a girly thing, although I found this, but alas without a photo:

bq. Mrs. Ray added that there is huge a waiting list for the popular volunteer programme, but more volunteers are always welcome. Candystriping is no longer a ‘girl thing’ and the programme now includes several young men. “We really want to encourage the boys,” said Mrs. Ray.

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