During the English Reformation, Roman Catholics in England were prohibited from any practice of their faith by law in public or private.
It is said that the delightful nonsense rhyme, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written as one of the catechism songs to help young Catholics learn the tenets of the faith - as to be caught with anything in writing indicating even remote adherence to the Catholic faith would warrant serious punishment.
The gifts in the song are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song does not refer to any earthly suitor, but to God Himself.
The "me" who receives the presents refer to every baptised person.
The symbols in the song mean the following:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree = Christ as the partridge, the cross as the pear tree
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = The three gifts of the Magi, Faith, Hope, and Charity (the theological virtues), or the three Persons of the Trinity
4 Calling Birds = The Four Gospels/Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament)
6 Geese A-laying = The six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit or the seven sacraments
8 Maids A -milking = The eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = The nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = The Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping = The eleven faithful Apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = The twelve articles in the Apostles' Creed
The Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning on Christmas Day; this period is also known as Christmastide, and ending on the day before the Feast of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) on January 6.