Catholic & Holiday Trivia
The story of the 12 Days of Christmas Carol
There is one Christmas Carol that has often baffles people. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens,
swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone
during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning
plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality
which the children could remember. -
The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
The Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
The Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
The seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
The nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
Thanksgiving Trivia: Is Thanksgiving Catholic?
This history books will tell you that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the pilgrims in 1621. Not true.
An interesting bit of trivia is that the first American Thanksgiving was actually celebrated on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida. The Native Americans and Spanish settlers held a feast and the Holy Mass was offered.
A second similar "Thanksgiving" celebration occurred on American soil on April 30, 1598 in Texas when Don Juan de Oñate declared a day of Thanksgiving to be commemorated by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Catholic origins of Thanksgiving don’t stop there. Squanto, the beloved hero of Thanksgiving, was the Native American man who mediated between the Puritan Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Squanto had been enslaved by the English but he was freed by Spanish Franciscans. Squanto thus received baptism and became a Catholic. So it was a baptized Catholic Native American who orchestrated what became known as Thanksgiving.
All that being said, Thanksgiving is traditional Protestant and marks the tradition of religious toleration (something in which the Puritan pilgrims did not actually believe - they set up a "theocracy").
At an high-church Episcopalian/Anglican classical school in Philadelphia, the school consciously played down the significance of Thanksgiving. Why? The reason is simple. At root, Thanksgiving commemorates the good fortune of political and ecclesiastical rebels against the Church of England and the Anglican tradition as a whole.
It all started with Richard Clyfton who was a Church of England parson in Nottinghamshire in the early 1600s. Clifton sympathized with the Separatists of that era. Separatists were Calvinistic non-conformists to the doctrine and liturgy of the Church of England. The Hampton Court Conference held by King James I (1604) condemned those who would not conform to the more outwardly Catholic usages in the Church of England (e.g. robes, candles, bowing the head at the name of Christ, processions). The result was that Richard Clyfton was “defrocked” and stripped of his clerical status in the Church of England. Shortly thereafter Richard Clyfton went to Amsterdam and was followed by his disciples: the Pilgrims.
These Pilgrims moved around a bit until finally coming to America in 1620. An interesting bit of trivia is that one child was born on board the Mayflower while at sea. The child was given the rather lame name: “Oceanus”. Poor child.
In 1621, the Pilgrims allegedly celebrated a happy meal with the Native Americans and the rest is history. So why would an Anglican school be against Thanksgiving? It celebrates those who defied the Church of England and the Crown of England.
Now the penal laws of England regarding non-conformists affected not only the rigorous Calvinistic Puritans in England, but also the English Catholic recusants. The Pilgrims shared the same lot as the Catholic faithful of England. Interestingly enough, the Catholics who lived in Nottinghamshire where the Pilgrims originated were persecuted mercilessly.
So while Thanksgiving may celebrate the Calvinists Separatists who fled England, Catholics might remember the same unjust laws that granted the crown of martyrdom to Thomas More, John Fisher, Edmund Campion, et al. are the same injustices that led the Pilgrims to Plymouth.
Another bit of trivia is that the truly “First Thanksgiving” celebration occurred on American soil on April 30, 1598 in Texas when Don Juan de Oñate declared a day of Thanksgiving to be commemorated by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
And let everyone remember that “Thanksgiving” in Greek is Eucharistia. Thus, the Body and Blood of Christ is the true “Thanksgiving Meal”.
Thanksgiving Proclamation by George Washington
A Thanksgiving Proclamation
October 3, 1789
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October, A.D. 1789.