On the third day… “Three French Hens”
French Hens were very expensive during the 16th century (when the song was written), and thus are symbolic of the three costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh given by the wise men (Matt. 2:10-11). An alternate significance is symbolism depicting the value of the three Christ virtues, faith, hope, and charity (sacrificial love) (1 Cor. 13:13). Other forms of the song use the French Hens to symbolize the three persons of the trinity. But let’s look at some other traditional trappings.
The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
Wassail is from the Old Norse ves heill, meaning “good health.”
Ancient peoples, such as the Druids, considered mistletoe sacred because it remains green and bears fruit during the winter when all other plants appear to die. Druids would cut the plant with golden sickles and never let it touch the ground. They thought it had the power to cure infertility and nervous diseases and to ward off evil.
Mistletoe comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “little dung twig”
Mistletoe (Viscum album) is from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, which means “little dung twig” because the plant spreads though bird droppings.
So there you have it folks, a couple of factoids. Never know when they’ll come in handy for ya;)