My interpretation was the more modern "four calling birds" so I picked the Purple Finch as a local songbird. Roger Tory Peterson describes them as being "like a sparrow dipped in raspberry jam".The question remains, why call them "purple"? However, nicely colourful as they are, the real bird of the song was a "colly bird". Colly means black as coal and would have been the European Blackbird. Why blackbirds as a gift? Well, as in "Sing a Song of Sixpence", they were food and would have added to the feast for 12th Night - along with the eggs from those Three French Hens. Since the song accumulates, there would eventually be enough colly birds to outdo the four-and-twenty who were baked in the "sixpence" pie. Some see the song simply as a folk song for the festive season that celebrates the feasting and celebration. Others say there is a hidden meaning to it - just like nursery rhymes. For a period of English history, Roman Catholics were not allowed to practice their faith openly. The "12 Days of Christmas" is seen as a secret catechism that could be sung in public. In this interpretation, the four birds stand for the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
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