Saturday, November 22, 2014

23rd November The Twelve Days of Christmas

Browsing through the Christmas picture books I noticed that Alison Jay has done a new version of The Twelve Days of Christmas and I picked it up for perusal, and while it does have beautiful artwork in her trademark style, I did wonder how many copies one library needs of this song, especially a school library like mine where school finishes for the summer holidays three weeks before Christmas and the teachers do so little Christmas-wise with their classes. Some very well known children's illustrators seem to have enjoyed creating their own version - see among others Susan Jeffers, Rachel Isadora, Brian Wildsmith, Jane Ray, Jan Brett, Robert Sabuda, Britta Teckentrup and Jane Cabrera.

One of the most popular holiday songs of all time, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' probably originated in France during the late Middle Ages and became popular in England as a chant sung without music. The 12 days are traditionally those following Christmas, with the last day being the end of the season. Over the years the lyrics have changed but the song remains a perennial favourite. 

I sometimes use the song to explain to students that the twelve days are the twelve days after Christmas Day that take us up to Epiphany, the day when the three kings went to visit baby Jesus and the day when traditionally we take down our Christmas tree and decorations.

As well there are many spin offs designed to suit a particular place. There are African (A Stork in a Baobab) and Latino (A Piñata in a Pine Tree) versions and here in Australia there are a myriad of innovations, with emus, kookaburras and platypuses up gum trees and even an underwater version by Kim Michelle Toft. The original by June Williams and John McIntosh is gentle and almost reverent, the newer ones such as the Heath McKenzie version and the Colin Buchanan version are loud and boisterous. At the Lifeline Book Fair this weekend near my home I could have bought a number of each version for as little as fifty cents each! Perhaps good for compare and contrast activities and as background to making your own.

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