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On the Tenth Day of Christmas

Chuck enjoys celebrating holidays with his family. This has led to an interest in researching & writing about holidays & their traditions.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...Ten Lords A-Leaping

The ten lords a-leaping most likely refers to leaping dancers (called morris dancers) who performed leaping dances between courses at feasts.

This type of wild and strenuous dancing probably evolved from more ancient war and fertility dances and would have been a popular form of entertainment for this type of function.

Unlike the nine ladies dancing in the previous stanza where the dancers appear to have been guests dancing for enjoyment, these were professional dancers brought in to entertain the guests while they dined.

Morris dancing itself was a popular form of folk dancing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and possibly earlier. Both King Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I had professional Morris Dance Troupes perform as part of the entertainment at feasts.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas - Ten Lords A-Leaping

Ten Lords A-Leaping

Ten Lords A-Leaping

Morris Dancing

Many parish church records from this period show both expenses for the purchase of costumes and the bells that the dancers wore while performing as well as income from the rental of the costumes to neighboring parishes.

While the royal court and other nobles would probably hire professional morris dance troupes to perform at social functions year round, local amateur groups seem to have done most of their performances in conjunction with annual May Day and other outdoor spring festivals.

Morris dancing declined following the English Civil Wars of the mid-seventeenth century which brought Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans to power with their dislike and banning of any type of frivolity such as singing and dancing.

The twentieth century brought a revival of the Morris and other folk dancing traditions in the UK and other parts of the world including the U.S. Today there are local Morris Dance Troupes and competitions in the UK as well as other parts of the world.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Two Turtle Doves

Two Turtle Doves

Three French Hens

Three French Hens

Four Collie Birds

Four Collie Birds

Five Golden Rings

Five Golden Rings

Six Geese A-Laying

Six Geese A-Laying

Seven Swans

Seven Swans

Eight Maids A-Milking

Eight Maids A-Milking

Nine Ladies Dancing

Nine Ladies Dancing

Eleven Pipers Piping

Eleven Pipers Piping

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Links to My Other Hubs on The Twelve Days of Christmas

  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
    The Twelve Days of Christmas is a popular carol that dates back to the Middle Ages. Being much older than other popular Christmas carols, this one appears to have evolved rather than being composed and...
  • Is it a Calling Bird or a Collie Bird in the Carol The Twelve Days of Christmas?
    December 26, 2010 New Hubber, Mary Jane Danley, saw my Hub On the First Day of Christmas and sent me a request asking if the gift on the Fourth Day of Christmas was originally four colley (or collie) birds...
  • On the First Day of Christmas
    Why a partridge in a pear tree? A partridge is not a small bird that can be easily placed in a cage in the kitchen. And the song pre-dates dwarf fruit trees so we are talking about a good sized tree which...
  • On the Second Day of Christmas
    Doves are a common symbol for love and peace, two Christmas themes. Turtle doves are a common species of dove found in France and England and they were often kept in cages as pets during the Middle Ages and...
  • On the Third Day of Christmas
    Dec 20, 2006 (updated 12/27/2010) The three French Hens probably refer to a variety of chicken from France. There are many varieties of chicken and in the period during which this carol developed there were...
  • On the Fourth Day of Christmas
    In the discussion dealing with the Partridge in a Pear Tree in the first stanza of the song it was pointed out that the gift of a partridge in a pear tree may have come about because of a mix-up between French...
  • On the Fifth Day of Christmas
    Dec 20, 2006 (updated 12/27/10) Unlike the four collie birds in the previous stanza who just had their name changed to a different, and non-existent, species of bird, the five rings in this stanza have, in...
  • On the Sixth Day of Christmas
    Geese were among the first birds to be domesticated. Our Neolithic ancestors discovered that, rather than spending days searching for animals to kill or nests to rob, it was easier to capture them live and...
  • On the Seventh Day of Christmas
    On the seventh day the lover sends seven swans. Throughout history swans have been associated with royalty and the swan is often used on royal symbols and other decorations. Swans are also found in myths...
  • On the Eighth Day of Christmas
    The eight maids a-milking addresses two of the major themes of fifteenth and sixteenth century English celebrations and parties during the Christmas holidays food and romance. What is a feast or...
  • On the Ninth Day of Christmas
    The nine ladies dancing evokes images of music and dancing which were a big part of the celebrations at this period of history in England. The term ladies probably refers to noble ladies as in a Lord and his...
  • On the Eleventh Day of Christmas
    At the big feasts held during the holiday celebrations the guests were often entertained by musicians, dancers, jugglers, etc. as well as singing and dancing themselves. Bagpipes and their younger cousins the...
  • On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
    With the twelfth day we have reached the end of the song and have arrived at the last day of Christmas known as Twelfth Night on which the partying and feasting continued. Twelfth Night is the night before...

© 2006 Chuck Nugent

Comments

182BEVERLEI on December 19, 2010:

Thank you for this very enlightened history background about today's stories and tales.

Amber90 on December 22, 2008:

I enjoyed reading this hub. To the point simple and defined. very well written