29 December 2009

Five Golden Rings

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:  Five Golden Rings.  Again, the true love is popping up with more food.  Unlike the four collie birds in the previous stanza who just had their name changed to a non-existent bird, the five rings in this stanza changed from five ring-necked pheasants to five pieces of jewelry. While gold rings for one's fingers have been around since ancient times, the word ring, even today, has different meanings. It is not unusual to discover that people in the 1500's used the shortened term ring to describe a ring-necked pheasant as well as jewelry for their fingers.

Pheasants have long been a popular game bird and pheasant hunting has long been a popular sport in Europe
Pheasants were a prized bird as they were both tasty and, more importantly, had long been associated with the nobility.  So the five golden rings in this stanza refer to five ring-necked pheasants, a dish that was sure to be served at some of the king or queen's Twelfth Night feasts during the Twelve Days of Christmas celebrations.

In the liturgical calendar, the fifth day of Christmas is dedicated to St. Thomas Becket, who if the stories are all true wasn't much of a saint in his younger years though he did end up as "this troublesome priest" and martyred.  Not to mention the story being turned into a great movie, "Becket" starring Richard Burton as Becket and Peter O'Toole as King Henry II.

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