The 12 Days of Christmas; more than just a festive song

In this old English carol, it seems the singer revels in reciting the list of elaborate presents their true love gives to them on each of the 12 days of Christmas, yet dig deeper and it is more than a tale of festive overspending.

It is said each line of this Christmas Carol has a hidden religious meaning and was written in the nineteenth century to help Christians understand their faith; for example two turtle doves represent the Old and New Bible testaments and four calling birds symbolise the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

This might not be breaking news for some of you, but it was news to me as I had previously hoped someone did receive five gold rings and 10 leaping Lords as Christmas gifts.

These days it is not just carol singers getting in on the 12 days of Christmas act, there have been cover versions including The Muppets and Twisted Sister, a pub crawl stopping at 12 pubs in one session and it has also inspired many a festive menu.

It is the foodies I am joining and over the next 12 days will present my ‘loose interpretations’ of each gift through the medium of food, although traditionally the 12 days begin on Christmas Day and end on the feast of the Epiphany which falls on January 5.

I however am starting my version tonight because thoughts of my gluttonous treats after New Year’s Day might not be appreciated… I warned you this was going to be loose!


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree…

Poached Pears with Caramel Sauce

While there is no partridge in this dish, let me reassure you birds will feature on later days.

My interpretation of the lyrics is poached pear with caramel sauce and fresh cream; I used cinnamon sticks in the poaching liquid which basically look like miniature tree trunks!

Anyways enough of the justifications, this is a lovely little dessert and the poaching pears give off a festive aroma that leaves your kitchen smelling like Christmas.poached-pears


  • 4 pears peeled and cored
  • 1 bottle of white wine (750ml)
  • 250 ml cold water
  • 350 grams of sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 tablespoon syrup


  • Add the wine, water and sugar to a large saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, vanilla essence and 1 tablespoon of syrup.
  • Gently place the pears into the liquid, put a lid on the saucepan and simmer for 1-2 hours; the longer the better really to let the pears soften.
  • Remove the pears from the liquid, stand on a plate and allow them to cool.
  • Turn up the heat and let the liquid boil, so it becomes syrupy. It might take about 20 to 30 minutes for the liquid to reduce down, but don’t leave it much longer than this as the caramel sauce will harden when served.
  • When the liquid becomes golden in colour remove from the heat, let it cool for a few minutes then pour over the pears and serve with fresh cream.

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