There is an urban legend that The 12 Days of Christmas is a Catholic teaching song to keep the faith alive in England under the Protestant rulers. In fact the song is a counting/nonsense song thatb pre-dates that era and the religious meaning was tacked on very recently by a Catholic priest.

Reinterpreting carols and songs seems to be popular sport right now.

In December 2008, it was claimed that The original Latin form of Oh Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles) was a secret political code linked to the Jacobite rebellion, being a birth ode to the prince. "Fideles" meant faithful in the sense of faithful Catholic Jacobites. "Bethlehem" was the Jacobite cipher for England, and "Regem Angelorum" was an apparently well-known pun on Angelorum (of angels) and "Anglorum" (of the English). Instead of "Come and Behold Him, Born the King of Angels" the carol really maent "Come and Behold Him, Born the King of the English" i.e. Bonnie Prince Charlie."

In the same month, the Hokey Cokey - a traditional song associated with British Music Hall tradition and knees ups in London pubs - was said to be "possibly sectarian". It may join a list of banned anti-Catholic songs supporters of (Glasgow) Rangers FC must not use in taunting (Glasgow) Celtic fans. According to the Catholic Church and some Scottish politicians, singing it could constitute an act of religious hatred. Some claim the song was composed in the 18th century to mock the words and actions of the Catholic Latin mass. "Hokey cokey" was said to derive from the term "hocus pocus", a corruption of "hoc est corpus" ("this is my body"). The movement apparently mocked the movements of the priest at the transubstantiation - arm movements made with his back to the congregation. The alternative derivations offered are equally demonic: the Welsh "hovea pwca" (goblin's trick) or the Norse sorcerer, Ochus Bochus.

It's quite possible "hokey cokey" (which in my region and childhood was sung "okey cokey") are nonsense words. In the USA, there is a variant of the familiar British "Hokey Cokey" called the "Hokey Pokey", "hokey Pokey" being a corruption of "hocus pocus" (In London and some other parts of Britain, hokey-pokey was a term for ice-cream deriving from the mystifying (to non-Italian speakers) calls of the Italian street vendors with no hocus pocus about it at all!). The accompanying dance could easily have been just one of many popular circle dances.

In fact almost any song can be reinterpreted as religious by claiming the words have alternative or hidden meanings and twisting them to suit your purpose. Take this old musical hall song about an evicted couple hurriedly moving to new lodgings, with no room in the hired/borrowed van for the man's wife and her caged songbird:,/P>

My old man said "Follow the van,
And don't dilly dally on the way".
Off went the van wiv me 'ome packed in it,
I followed on wiv me old cock linnet.
But I dillied and dallied, dallied and I dillied
Lost me way and don't know where to roam.
Well you can't trust a special like the old time coppers
When you can't find your way 'ome

Here's the religious interpretation:

My old man - either the priest or the woman's father giving advice
Follow the van - follow the true church
Dilly-dally - be distracted by the devil (divil-dally)
Cock linnet - false preacher
Lost me way - strayed from the true church
Special - Protestant preacher
Old time copper - Catholic priest

Having dallied with the devil i.e. strayed from the true church and followed a false preacher who sings a sweet tune (gives a persuasive sermon), she is looking for help returning to the path of true faith. The special (a type of policeman) refers to Protestant ministers which cannot be trusted to see you home (or trusted with your immortal soul) in the way the old time coppers (an earlier type of policeman) i.e. older tradition of Catholic priests can be trusted. By that interpretation, this popular music hall song incites religious hatred.

If you have a creative mind, most traditional songs can be reinterpreted to mean something religious, political or sexual, no matter how innocuous the song originally was. The writers of some of the reinterpreted lyrics would no doubt be horrified to be told of hidden meanings that exist only in the minds of those riding religious, political or sexual hobbyhorses.


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