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Multicultural Versions of The Twelve Days of Christmas

Multicultural versions of the holiday classic, The Twelve Days of Christmasprovide a fun glimpse into different cultures.

Many of us are familiar with a partridge in a pear tree, but have you ever heard of a stork in a baobab tree or a pukeko in a ponga tree?

The Twelve Days of Christmas

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, taking place from December 25 through January 5. Traditions around the world include giving gifts, lighting a Yule log, and baking a special cake for the Twelfth Night.

The “Twelve Days of Christmas Song” dates back centuries and may have originated as a memory-type game for children.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Twelve drummers drumming
Eleven pipers piping
Ten lords a-leaping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight maids a-milking
Seven swans a-swimming
Six geese a-laying
Five golden rings
Four calling birds
Three french hens
Two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree

The Twelve Days of Christmas

This sparkling new edition with beautiful fabric illustrations by Rachel Griffin includes notes on the festival and the history of the song, as well as meanings of the gifts. Note the illustrator’s choice of using diverse images from around the world, like the pipers from India and the drummers from Malawi.

Did You Know?

According to the lyrics, a total of 364 gifts are delivered in all. That falls one short of the 365 days in one year.

The final gift is the gift of true love!

Check It Out!

For 37 years, the PNC Christmas Price Index®  has calculated the prices of the 12 gifts from the classic holiday song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

While it may not be feasible to buy your true love all 12 gifts, you could try making them!

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A Stork in a Baobab Tree: An African 12 Days of Christmas

This version features a different African country on each of the twelve days, with descriptions of the objects and explanations of the activities mentioned in the text.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Twelve storytellers
Eleven dancers dancing
Ten drummers drumming
Nine grazing goats
Eight wooden carvings
Seven children playing
Six women pounding
Five bright khangas
Four market traders
Three woven baskets
Two thatched huts
and a stork in a baobab tree

Did You Know?

The khanga is a traditional cloth worn by many women as a skirt, a shawl, headdress, or even a baby sling.

Check it Out!

Learn about the African Baobab and why it is known as the “tree of life.”

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A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas

A humorous version from Canada with great illustrations.

A Porcupine in a Pine Tree

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Twelve cubs a-dancing
Eleven puffins piping
Ten leafs a-leaping
Nine loons canoeing
Eight mounties munching
Seven sled dogs sledding
Six squirrels curling
Five Stanley Cups
Four calling moose
Three beaver tails
Two caribou
and a porcupine in a pine tree

Did You Know?

This writer/illustrator teamed up to write more Canadian porcupine holiday favorites: Dashing Through the Snow: A Canadian Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls: A Canadian Christmas Carol. You can find them all in this collection.

(And you can grab this cute plush to enjoy with the story!)

porcupine plush

Check it Out!

Illustrator Werner Zimmermann shows you how to draw a porcupine.

Get the Book (also available in French):

A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas

In this version, it’s an amiga that a little girl receives gifts from.

Find and count items in Spanish on every page.

Includes pronunciation and glossary of Spanish words and a description of Christmas foods and other holiday traditions from different Latin American countries.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my amiga gave to me:
doce angelitos celebrando,
once lunitas cantando,
diez estrellitas saltando,
nueve campanitas sonando,
ocho pajaritos sernando,
siete burritos bailando,
seis trompos girando,
cinco quitarritas,
cuatro luminarias,
tres tamalitos,
dos pastellitos,
and a piñata in a pine tree

Did You Know?

Piñatas are a common activity at Hispanic Heritage Christmas Stories, part of the traditional Mexican Christmas celebration.

Check it Out!

Explore more Hispanic Heritage Christmas Stories, including ‘Twas Nochebuena and Miracle on 133rd Street.

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A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree  (New Zealand) 

So many new words in this one! Ask students to use picture and word clues to predict the meaning of the unfamiliar vocabulary.

Includes a sing-along CD!

A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Twelve piupius swinging
Eleven haka lessons
Ten juicy fish heads
Nine sacks of pipis
Eight plants of puha
Seven eels a-swimming
Six pois a-twirling
Five Big. Fat. Pigs!
Four huhu grubs
Three flax kilts
Two kumera
and a pukeko in a pongo tree.

Did You Know?

A pukeko is a large, blue-purplish, wetland-dwelling bird, and a ponga tree is a type of fern only found in New Zealand.

Check it Out!

Mama Lisa’s World shares the full song lyrics and provides definitions for the Maori words.

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