Friday 26 December 2014

On the first day of Christmas, ARCAT stored for me...

...a pen used to vote at Conclave:

Accession 2013-017

Following his participation in the most recent Papal Conclave, Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Cardinal Collins presented the archives with some souvenirs.  The cache included a blue Pilot pen and an explanatory note identifying its provenance as 
"one of the pens placed at each Cardinal's place in the Sistine Chapel in the Conclave of March 2013 that elected Pope Francis, and the one I used in voting."

[Our professional glee at receiving this artifact greatly compensated for our disappointment at learning that the conclave issued ballpoint pens instead of quills handcrafted from dove feathers of purest white.]

From Boxing Day until Epiphany, we will be marking the Twelve Days of Christmas by highlighting different objects archived at the archdiocese. (We paid special attention to making the lyrics syllabically consistent with the original tune.)

Interestingly enough, there is a Canadian and Catholic angle to this beloved and much-parodied Christmas carol.  In 1979, a Canadian hymnologist, Hugh McKellar, claimed The Twelve Days of Christmas was a catechism song to help young Catholics learn their faith at a time when practising Catholicism was criminalized in England.* For example, he proposed that the four calling (or colly) birds stood for the four gospels and the eight maids-a-milking were code for the beatitudes. 

Though there are many theories regarding variations of the song's lyrics and their symbolism, the origins of the hymn remain unknown.

*McKellar, Hugh D. "How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas." U.S. Catholic, December 1979.
McKellar, Hugh D. "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The Hymn, a journal of congregational song, October 1994.

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