the last one mentions that this may be an urban legend
Its also been extended by http://www.scborromeo.org/papers/12days.htm
and bingo - just found the fact that it was an urban myth and gves the true origin
From that site the preabmle Below is printed a popular urban myth about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" that first hit the net in 1995 via an article from Catholic Information Network (by Fr. Hal Stockert of Fishnetsite) that later withdrew its page. However, the urban myth has spread through the net like DNA, though the original source as long withdrawn its claim to the story. (Don't feel bad. We were taken by that page, too!) However, according to A Celebration and History(ISBN 0-679-74038-4), by Leigh Grant, the written lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" first appeared in Mirth without Mischief in the early 1780s in England. Grant states that the tune to which these words are sung apparently dates back much further and came from France. Mirth without Mischief describes "The Twelve Days of Christmas" as a type of memory game played by children at that time. A leader recited the first verse, the next child recited the second verse, and so on until someone missed a verse and had to pay some kind of penalty in the game. There was no religious significance. At anyrate the popular urban myth makes a good story... at least as good as the song itself, so here is a slice of urban myth culture for you:
P.S. - Epiphany was Christmas before the Calendar change of 1752 - Benbecula (I think) celebrate according to th old calendar, and the Feast Day of St Buryan - (the patron of the cathedral of the West near The Land's End) is celebrated on 13th may - when the official date is 1st May.
> As such, I have become curious about the traditional carol 'The Twelve Days
> of Christmas'. This seems to be first printed in English in the 1780s...
> There seems to be a fairly popular - but as far as I can tell completely
> unsubstantiated - interpretation of the verses of the carol as a sort of
> hidden Catholic catechism. Each present is supposed to represent a
> Christian truth to aid memory in time of religious persecution.
> I suspect that this is a internet 'hoax' only a few years old that has
> escaped into popular print.
> Can anyone suggest an authoritive source on the history/ origin of this
> I did find a sales pitch for the New Oxford Book of Carols, Keyte and
> Parrott, OUP, which sounds as if it might do the trick. Does anyone have
> any comments on this book? Or a copy that they could summarise the entry
> from so I can see if it is worth chasing further!
> Sorry that this is a bit off topic - carols are a bit out of my usual field