On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Five Golden Rings

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Luke 24:44

The five rings represent the first five books of the Bible — the Torah, or Law.  If this song was functioning as a catechism of sorts for the Catholic youth of 16th century England, then it makes sense that they should know these books.  Scripture was just then becoming available to the common man, and there was a hunger for the word.  The four Gospels were essential, but the Church also recognized that an understanding of the Good News was based firmly upon the Law and Prophets.  As Jesus told the disciples after His resurrection, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:44)

While the image we have is of five golden rings for one’s fingers, the five rings referred to in the original lyrics were probably five ring-necked pheasants.  Rings for one’s fingers were not viewed as an appropriate gift.  Gold was something that one acquired for oneself.  Food was a more gracious gift.  Food was not as plentiful and as easily available as it is today, so gifts of food were more common.  Ring-necked pheasants would therefore be the greater gift and far more festive for a celebration.

The image of the game bird as the gift the true love gave represents the food of God’s Word to the beloved.  Our True Love gives us the Torah, and in that gift reminds us that He created us, we fell, He judged us, and we were redeemed by His gracious goodness.


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