The Twelve Days of Christmas – Day 2 – Two Turtle Doves

The Second Day of Christmas – Two Turtle Doves

In my first two Posts, I talked about the origins of the Carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, and the gifts sent on The First Day of The Twelve days of Christmas


Verse 2 of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” says :

Picture from Wikipedia

On the second day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Two Turtle Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

The European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur), also know as Turtle Dove is a member of the bird family Columbidae, which includes the Doves and Pigeons.

The European Turtledove is a migratory species with a Palearctic range, including Turkey and North Africa, although it is rare in northern Scandinavia and Russia. It winters in southern Africa.

It is smaller and slighter than many other doves and may be recognised by its browner colour and the black-and-white-striped patch on the side of its neck

Turtle Doves have been used to represent many things. One of the commonest is to signify devoted Love.

There is a close relationship between true lovers and Turtle Doves. These birds stay with their partners for a lifetime which is the ideal that God meant when He instituted the Marriage Relationship. They symbolize loyalty and faith.

Turtle Doves were one of the best known birds in the Holy Land. The  Old Testament in Leviticus Chapter 5 records that God, through Moses, instructed that those who were too poor to bring a lamb or goat as a sacrifice were to bring two turtle doves. In the Hebrew sacrificial system, the sacrifice of the two turtledoves is an offering that brings peace with God.

The Dove is mentioned in that oldest and most famous of love poems, in the Bible, “The Song of Songs”. Solomon refers to his beautiful wife as “my dove” (Ch6:9) and says “you have doves eyes”(ch1:15)

 Many famous writers and poets such as Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare have referred to them in their compositions.

A more modern composition is that by the famous English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who came across the melody of an English folk tune “The Turtle Dove” in November 1904, while on a folksong collecting expedition in Sussex. In 1919 he published it in an arrangement for male chorus, but it is more commonly heard in a setting for mixed chorus which was published in 1924(add link)

Turtle Doves have great significance in the context of Christmas for when Joseph and Mary went to the temple after the birth of Jesus, they sacrificed “…..a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons”- Luke 2:24.   

One of the pleasures I have enjoyed over the years is listening to the calls and songs of the birds around our home. Many times I have had fun  mimicing the calls and have the birds answer. At one stage  we counted more than 30 birds, including Doves, around our property.   The references below may encourage you to learn what bird makes which call.


The second day of Christmas is more popularly known as Boxing Day


Origin of Boxing Day.

Boxing  Day is usually celebrated on the day following Christmas Day, which is the 26th December.

There are several theories as to the origin of the term “boxing”.

 Some go as far back as the days of the early Christian era; metal boxes, often referred to as “Alms Boxes” were placed outside churches and were used to collect special offerings for the poor. These boxes were opened on the day after Christmas Day and the offerings distributed to the poor.

There is an old English tradition. Wealthy land owners, as a way of ensuring all went well at Christmas, allowed their servants to take the 26th off to visit their families. The employers gave each servant a box containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food

In the UK it was the custom for tradesmen to collect ”Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as a “thank you” for good service throughout the year

In the days of sailing ships and long, unpredictable journeys, it is said that each ship carried a “Christmas Box” as a good luck charm.  This Box was blessed by a priest who placed it on the ship while it was in port . Any seaman who wanted to ensure a safe return could place money in the Box, which was then sealed and kept on board during the voyage.

On returning, the box was given to the priest, who would say a “thank you “ Mass for the safe return of the ship and its crew. The priest would keep the box sealed until Christmas and then distribute the contents to the poor in his Parish the day after Christmas day.

Boxing Day is also celebrated in certain branches of the Christian church as St Stephen’s Day.  You may remember the Christmas Carol “ Good King Wenceslas” and what happened when he “looked out!

St Stephen lived in Rome and it is recorded in the new Testament that he was the first man to be killed for believing in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God.

The story of Stephen and his martyrdom is recorded in the fifth book of the New Testament – The Acts of the Apostles Chapter 6:1 to 8:2

 Whether you approach the Second Day of Christmas as a Lover sending and receiving gifts, enjoing a holiday or celebrating  St Stephen’s Day in your church, I hope it will be a happy one for you.


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