12 Days of Christmas Tree

Dec 11th

A year or so ago, I heard there was a spiritual parallel to the “12 Days of Christmas” song… it’s a bit of an odd song, and often when I hear it, I have an internal sigh of we’re gonna be here a while with this silliness… I began researching, and as I did, I fell in love with it, discovering that each of the ‘days’ was to mirror a religious belief or ‘item’ if you will.

I’m very much a visual person, and also quite literal at times. I felt that theming a Christmas tree after the song would be a great way for me to commit it to memory and heart, and hopefully be fun for my family. I began researching birds… partridge, turtle doves, calling birds, hens… and doodling away with notes on each of the days.

My friend Emily and I were out to lunch this fall when she asked what I was up to lately. I smiled and said, “I’ve been designing a new Christmas tree… I just love when things point back to Jesus…” Her eyes grew bigger as I described it. Her excitement encouraged me beyond words, and she told me, “You HAVE to do this. You have to.”

So here is a bit of my slightly eccentric, visual-meets-literal side. The idea was planted a while back, and I am so happy to have brought it to the finish line in our family reading room.


A few notes on the meanings of each “day” and also some crafty info…

Partridge in a Pear Tree: The partridge represents Jesus Christ.
A partridge will give its life for its young – I cried when I read that. At the top of our tree, is a moss & natural fiber cross. On the right of it is mounted a bird (it’s not a partridge, but it is my favorite bird that I’ve had for years. Yes, I have random stuff like that). A banner drapes over it which reads “our one True Love”. I attached rice lights to reinforce the shape of the cross when the room is dark.

Two Turtle Doves: Old & New Testament
I had a hard time shopping for turtle doves. A lot of searches kept me coming up with white wedding doves, which were not what I was going for. One day, i went to the range to shoot a while and the sign declared that dove decoys were on sale. I laughed so hard – of course! My desire was to put a turtle shell on their backs. It didn’t happen this year – next year, they’ll have turtle shell backpacks, which I will likely paper mache / decoupage and attach. Also, their beautiful scarves are ribbon from artwork packaging I bought locally. I wrapped them as scarves around their necks and attached small identifiers, one “Old Testament” and the other “New Testament”.

Three French Hens: Faith, Hope, Love
Ahh, the world of taxidermy hens – very fascinating. The smallest hen on the tree is sporting a barbie size french beret. This hen was purchased on etsy and when I saw it, I had to have it – such cute curly feathers – they are real feathers. The other two are styrofoam hens with artificial feathers. This is great because they are so lightweight in the tree. This is the other unfinished portion for this year, as my vision was for one to have a satchel with paint brushes and watercolor set, and the other with french bread under its wing. They each wear sashes of ribbon stating “Faith”, “hope” and “love”.

Four Calling (also, Colley) Birds: The 4 Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John
These are blackbirds, and I found them in various sizes. They represent the four gospels, and so to identify them, I made a ‘hello my name is (insert name)’ “sticker” and attached it to their chest.

Five Gold Rings: The Pentateuch – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy
These are styrofoam rings from the $1 store, which I spray painted gold and attached a starry gold wire garland of sorts to. The rings are identified by a banner with their given name and pinned into the foam. These were awkward to place in the tree because they can not be manipulated without breaking.

Six Geese a Laying: Six days of Creation
These sweet little geese are sitting in a moss topped natural fiber nest, and you guessed it, the nest is full of eggs.

Seven Swans a Swimming: Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
This is a mint condition Barbie pool from 1976! I bought it on etsy and could not have been more excited – when the pool arrived, I knew this tree was going to happen! Seven swans ‘float’ in the pool on rafts & inner tubes, and yes, there are a couple miniature ‘rubber ducky’s’. Go ahead, ask me what I do all day! Details, baby. The swans represent prophecy, leadership, ministry, teaching, exhortation, compassion & giving, which is listed on the “pool sign”.

Eight Maids a Milking: The Beatitudes
The maids ware as crafty as I got here… These are clothespin dolls. My dad drilled holes for the arm wires, my daughter sew’d the skirts… They were a little time consuming, but I think they are pretty special. I found these beautiful wooden buckets on etsy and was able to wind them into the hands of the dolls before I wrapped their arm, ensuring that the bucket will not be lost or detached. Each maid has a banner that reads one of the beatitudes. It may be attached to her hand or her bucket.

Nine Ladies Dancing: Fruits of the Spirit
Some days you just have to say you have nothing crafty left to give, and go buy what you need. These 9 pretty little ballerinas were waiting for me at Hobby Lobby and now have a fruit of the spirit attached to each of their backs.

Ten Lords a Leaping: Ten Commandments
I love the $1 store and one day I discovered that they have he-man style fighter dudes in there. I tossed 10 in my basket, positioned them in “leap” mode and gave them the Midas touch of gold spray paint!  I glued some of their joints in place and made each a banner with one of the commandments on it. Some are over their heads, some out in front.

Eleven Pipers Piping: Eleven Faithful Apostles
Eleven disciples (Judas is not included) are represented with a wooden flute. One name is attached to each flute and they are positioned throughout the tree.

Twelve Drummers Drumming: Twelve Points of Belief in the Apostles Creed
Eleven drums and a cymbal create the base of the tree, wrapping all around it. I remember buying the first drum kit and thinking “My husband might think I’m crazy!” but nothing topped the look of disbelief on my best friend’s face when she went in my storage room and saw all the drums stacked and asked what they were for. Hysterical! …They do take up a good bit of room but they are worth every square inch!

Regarding the structure of the tree:
This is an old tree where the branches are placed one by one. I knew it would be perfect because I could shape it the way I wanted to. Because the drums took up so much space at the bottom, some of the lowest branches are placed higher and to support the swimming pool!

Lots of love to my husband who, when we married, did not know Christmas trees go up in the fall. I asked him recently if he thought I was eccentric about anything, and he smiled and said, “Yes, Christmas.” I’m so thankful he is a creative who understands the messy process of creating be it in time, attention, or with spray paint, hot glue or putting hairdo’s on clothespins… this tree could have been the tackiest thing I ever put in his home, and it may well be, but his encouragement for me to keep creating and finish what I started is part of both the sweetness & accountability of which I am so thankful in our relationship.