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12 Days of Christmas

“This carol is thought to be of French origin, intended as a song for Twelfth Night. In England it became a cumulative song for use as accompaniment to a party game of forfeits in which twelve players all contributed gifts in random order. Each player as he took his turn was required to name all the previous gifts backward, ending with the words, ‘and a partridge in a pear tree.’ If a participant was incorrect in the ordering of the gifts, a forfeit (a fine or a penalty of some kind) was demanded of him. Today the order is standardized and the song is one of the most popular secular carols.” Peter Duchin A Musical Christmas with Peter Duchin.