The Twelve Days of Christmas linked to local wildlife

Song historians believe that 'gold rings' was originally sung as goldspinks, an old English word for goldfinches
Song historians believe that 'gold rings' was originally sung as goldspinks, an old English word for goldfinches

EVERYONE loves The Twelve Days of Christmas song, with verses about turtle doves, gold rings, drummers and dancing ladies.

But many do not realise the song describes a medieval feast. The first seven verses are actually all about birds eaten as part of this Christmas banquet.

Arundel Wetland Centre’s Twelve Days of Christmas Discovery Trail gives visitors fun facts about the seasonal song, with species of wildlife at the nature park included.

Manager Dave Fairlamb said: “With so many swans, geese and birds in the song, we thought the theme suited our wetland nature reserve that is rich with wildfowl.

“Following the trail is a great way to get outdoors and to get close to nature and family and friends during the holidays as well.”

The wetland wildstyle version of the trail also sings of moorhens, collared doves, sandpipers and endangered red-breasted geese.

From the original menu, the partridge is a game bird, doves were made into pie and people still eat hens. The goose was a tradition on Christmas tables in Dickens’ time and swans were on the banquet tables of royalty.

The maids-a-milking were getting food ready for the feast while the pipers and drummers play music for the leaping lords and dancing ladies.

Through the years, the song has had many changes and even had verses about badgers, bears and running hares.

Song historians believe that ‘gold rings’ was originally sung as goldspinks, an old English word for goldfinches. Calling birds were original coly birds, referring to blackbirds.

Swans have always appeared in the song and there are four species of swans at Arundel Wetland Centre for visitors to count along the Discovery Trail.

The trail is included in the admission price to Arundel Wetland Centre, along with a boat trip. Apart from Christmas Day, the centre is open every day, including New Year’s Day, from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

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