“Partridge in a Pear Tree”


My late mother-in-law did this exquisite needlework tapestry on brown linen with red and blue threads. I hang it each Christmas on the door of our front hall closet, so it is the first thing one sees when entering our home. I have done much needlework in my life, but this work amazes me when I consider how carefully she designed and executed it. I was grateful that my husband brought it home from her estate, knowing how much I would appreciate it.

The “Twelve Days of Christmas” song played throughout my childhood, and my siblings and I would try, usually unsuccessfully, to remember the verses all the way through. Today I am only able to sing the song if I start at the beginning. If you just give me one random group of ladies dancing or lords a-leaping, I am at a loss. I sang it in the school chorus at an assembly and was very happy to be able to slow down and take a deep breath at the phrase “five golden rings” before the song picked up steam again counting down to the final “and a partridge in a pear tree.”

There have been fun depictions of what it would look like if the loved one actually received all those presents and the chaos that would ensue. Parodies also abound. However, the song really points to the twelve days between the celebration of Christmas and Epiphany. Where we live, that twelfth day is celebrated as Three Kings Day with a parade featuring a camel to represent the magi coming to visit the baby Jesus. The Puerto Rican community here goes all out to celebrate that day, and school is even released for the festivities.


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