Tag Archives: English Partridge

A Post for Christmas – The 12 day Carol!


It is now too late to guarantee that any orders not already received, can be posted in time for Christmas, but my Etsy Shop will remain open and any orders will be posted as soon as the postal services resume over the holiday period.

So I thought I’d indulge in a Christmas subject – a post I found on Countryside Magazine

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century, and the meaning behind the birds in the Carol.



By Christine Henrichs

Understanding the 12 Days of Christmas meaning adds something special to this favorite traditional carol. Its repeating verses make it fun to learn the list of traditional gifts: A partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five gold rings, six geese a-laying, seven swans a-swimming, eight maids a-milking, nine ladies dancing, 10 lords a-leaping, 11 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming, all reflect things that were familiar to life in 18th century England and France.

In a nutshell, here’s the 12 Days of Christmas meaning: In the Christian religion, the 12 Days following Christmas are the time it took for the three wise men to make their journey to the stable where the Jesus was born. January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany. Religious meanings have been imputed to each day’s gift, but there isn’t any historical documentation for that. To me, it’s interesting because it tells us about what life was like back then.

The 12 Days of Christmas meaning is interesting to explore through a historic lens. The song lists many wild and domestic birds that brightened life in those days of political upheaval and revolution. It was first printed in the 1780 children’s book, Mirth Without Mischief, but it was already old then. It may have originated in France, as three French variations exist. The First Day’s signature partridge was introduced into England from France in the late 1770s, shortly before the carol was formalized in print and published.

12 Days of Christmas

The Partridge in a Pear Tree

The partridge is a colorful choice for the first gift. Partridges include lots of different species with bright plumage on their rotund bodies. The gray or English partridge, a Eurasian native, was known in England then. It came to North America around the turn of the 20th century, directly from Eurasia. It has adapted well and is now fairly common in North America. They are hardy birds, able to survive cold winter conditions in the Midwest and Canada. They aren’t much for flying, with a stocky body and short, round wings. Most flights are low, at eye level and shorter than 100 yards. They are 12 to 13 inches long with a wingspan of 21 to 22 inches and weigh about one pound.

The hens may lay as many as 22 eggs in a clutch and hatches of 16 to 18 are common. They are not usually raised as domestic birds.

Among modern chickens, the name Partridge survives today as a recognized color variety in both large fowl and bantam Cochin, Plymouth Rock, Wyandotte, Chantecler, and Silkie breeds. It is similar to the Black Red pattern, the name more appropriately applied to game birds, according to Dr. J. Batty in his Poultry Colour Guide of 1977. Males and females differ, with males have rich red plumage on their heads, backs and wings, glinting with lustrous greenish black. Females are more subdued, mostly reddish bay with distinct penciling. The Standard of Perfection details the requirements of the Partridge color pattern description.