"On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...A Partridge in a pear tree."
For these last twelve days, leading up to Christmas Day, I'll be piecing together the song's lines and explain as they come what each verse means and it's origins.
A Partridge in a pear tree...Hmm. We all know what a Pear Tree is. But what in the world is a "Partridge"? No goofy! I'm not talking about the Partridge Family (think David Cassidy and his "I Think I Love You" crooner).
The "partridge" that I am talking about from the infamous Christmas Carol is this one...
Yes, it is a bird, folks. A Partridge Bird is what the first line of the song is speaking of.
A Partridge Bird is within the Pheasant family. They are non-migratory birds as well. In other words, they don't fly south for the winter. Partridges are medium in size.
The bird was initially referenced in 1780 in the book "Mirth Without Mischief" (author unknown).
As for it's placement within the famous Christmas Carol, "The Twelve Days Of Christmas", it was initially part of a GAME that a group of children (or adults) would play. The leader of the game would start off with the line, "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... A Partridge in a Pear Tree". From there, the players would take turns building on to the lines. If there is a "mess up", then that first player that does so must forfeit. And the game is deemed over.
The line was around though, long before the game or the song. So, we may never know it's core history in its entirety.
Find more info here...
Partridge in a Pear Tree History