Fifth Day of Christmas: An Interlude

Did you ever notice while singing the “Twelve Days of Christmas” that there’s something unique about the fifth day? Not only are the “five go-old rings” sung jarringly slower, almost like going over a speed bump too fast, they are also the only inanimate objects in the whole list. Among the twelve gifts, six are birds and five are people. And then there’s gold.

Gold, of course, throughout human history has had lots of meanings. It is a vehicle for some of the most exquisite works of art that human imagination can create, as well as the object of the idolatry of greed: witness Midas and Croesus.

Try as I might, I have not been able to get any good online information about the meaning and/or symbolism of these five gold rings. Just some unbelievably silly garbage. Five rings for five fingers? Five interlocking rings, as in the Olympic symbol? If anyone can shed further light on this, please do so in a comment.

The religious / catechetical interpretation, that the five rings represent the first five books of the Bible – the Pentateuch or Torah – doesn’t seem very plausible. Other double meanings for rings? Maybe onion rings, thick cut and well battered, deep fried to a golden brown. That’s really appealing to me, and best not more than five!

If it’s hard to get a handle on the gold rings, it’s just as hard to say much about today’s saints. Nobody seems to capture our attention or imagination in a way that we would want to celebrate.  You can find a list of saints who are on the Roman calendar for today here, but none are even remotely part of our contemporary (or even historical) Catholic culture. Tomorrow will be a different story, with at least two of my favorites. Stay tuned.

So, today is a kind of interlude.  Enjoy the onion rings, and perhaps a hamburger to accompany them.

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Author: tomwelbers

I have been a Catholic priest for nearly fifty years, most of that time serving in parish and college campus ministry. I also have professional degrees in theology and liturgy, as well as institutional management, and continue avidly to explore pastoral theology, Scripture, liturgy, ecumenical and interfaith relations, and spiritual direction. I have a passion for sharing insight into our Christian heritage through teaching, writing, and leading pilgrimages, especially to Early Christian World sites in Turkey. Now actively retired from parish ministry, I live at Nazareth House in Los Angeles.

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