This traditional English folk song dates back to either the 1700s or 1800s: the specific origins are not known.
A version considered by many to be the authoritative, traditional version of the chant in England appears in The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, as follows:
The twelfth day of Christmas, | My true love sent to me | Twelve lords a-leaping, | Eleven pipers piping, | Ten ladies dancing, | Nine drummers drumming, | Eight maids a-milking, | Seven swans a-swimming, | Six geese a-laying, | Five gold rings, | Four colly birds, | Three French hens, | Two turtle doves, and | A partridge in a pear tree. (WIKI SOURCE LINK)
Conspiracy theorists may tell you that this song is a coded reference to Christian articles of faith, but this is refuted at Snopes.com. I don’t know who is right or who is wrong.
What I do know is that many have sung this song, but one of my favorite versions is by the Muppets. I must have heard this when the Holiday Special in 1979 first aired, but this song just came to my attention a few weeks ago (over thirty yearts later) while I was commuting home from work and listening to one the the Sirius Radio holiday music channels. I heard it three nights in a row and am now hooked! Miss Piggy is fabu!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.