“On the first day of Christmas my True Love gave to me: A Partridge in a pear tree…”
A partridge was a popular game bird, and eating this bird on Christmas day could have been the custom of the day in which this song was written. In the New Testament, Jesus calls Himself the “bread of life” (John 6:35), and in His prayer He said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). To the woman at the well, Jesus described Himself as the “water of life” (John 4:13-14). So the idea that Jesus is the gift that sustains us, nourishes us, and gives us life, is a theological idea. The fact that the gift of Jesus is a gift of abundant and eternal life is something worth contemplating on this Christmas day.
But another possible meaning behind this symbolism is that in the same way a mother partridge feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, so Jesus, with sadness, looks over Jerusalem and proclaims, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34).
A pear tree is a rather large, bulky tree that produces strong wood. This could very well symbolize the cross on which Jesus would die for our sins. Thus, on the first day of Christmas we recognize that the child, born in a manger, is God come to earth in human form to die for our sins.
On the first day of Christmas we look toward Easter Sunday.