On the first day of ChristmasMy true love gave to meA partridge in a pear tree.
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English Christmas carol that enumerates a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. Although first published in England in 1780, textual evidence may indicate the song is French in origin.
The 12 days in the song are the 12 days starting Christmas day, or in some traditions, the day after Christmas (Dec. 26) to the day before Epiphany, or the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6, or the Twelfth Day).
Twelfth Night is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "the evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking."
The earliest well-known version of the music of the song was recorded by English scholar James O. Halliwell in 1842, and he published a version in 4th edition The Nursery Rhymes of England (1846), collected principally from "oral tradition."
In the early 20th century, English composer Frederic Austin wrote an arrangement in which he added his melody from "Five gold rings" onwards, which has since become standard. The copyright to this arrangement was registered in 1909 and is still active by its owners, Novello & Co. Limited.
If the "partridge in a pear tree" of the English version is to be taken literally, then it seems as if the chant comes from France, since the red-legged (or French) partridge, which perches in trees more frequently than the native common (or grey) partridge, was not successfully introduced into England until about 1770.
For fans of Maud Hart Lovelace, the song was allegedly imported to the United States in 1910 by Emily Brown, of the Downer Teacher's College in Milwaukee, Wis., who had encountered the song in an English music store sometime before. She needed the song for the school Christmas pageant, an annual extravaganza that she was known for organizing.
Since Tib's Browner was based upon Downer I wonder if Tib knew her?