On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Eleven Pipers Piping

When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.  Acts 1:13-14

The eleven pipers piping represent the faithful eleven Apostles, who after the resurrection gathered in Jerusalem and formed the nucleus of the catholic Church.  In British medieval battle formation, the pipers were set out front and led the way, playing loudly on bagpipes.  It was a frightening sound to the enemy and a call to battle for the British troops in much the same way as the shofar was a call to battle for the Jews.  

The eleven Apostles led the troops and rallied the saints on Pentecost.  In Acts chapter 2 it says that “Peter and the eleven” were the first to speak in tongues, calling the faithful to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.”

But this song refers to a joyous occasion, a festival of celebration.  The pipers referred to in the song would be the professional bagpipe musicians hired to entertain the guests with their music and provide music for dancing.  During the Tudor and Stuart periods in England, Christmas was a festive time of year for the upper classes and elaborate parties with feasting, music and dancing were common among these classes.

And why should we not dance and celebrate the faithful Apostles?  These were men who paved the way for our faith with their blood.


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