|Three French Hens|
Welcome to h2g2's attempt to decipher the mystery that is the song 'The 12 Days of Christmas'. You've come to the page that is concentrating on the line Three French Hens, and here's what our Researchers came up with when we asked them what on earth this line meant.
There are four well-known breeds of French hen, namely Faverolles, La Fleche, Crevecoeurs (named after a Normandy village) and Marans. The Faverolles have superior egg laying abilities during the winter months - always handy over Christmas - and if you've ever eaten the French dish petite poussin you've eaten a Faverolles hen. And as for the Marans are concerned, they are apparently the hens that lay James Bond's favourite eggs, eggs that are dark chocolately-brown in colour... so there's the link. Well, it is in the UK, where no Christmas day would be complete without a Bond movie on the television1.
Actually, the whole issue of Anglo-French relationships is neatly summed up by the line 'Three French hens' (and perhaps the Christmas link is that Christmas is a time for burying the hatchet). The issue of British beef is probably the most famous instance of the UK and France falling out over food, but back in the late '80s there was a huge scare when Edwina Currie, then a minister in Her Majesty's Government, announced on 3 December 1988 that 'Every egg in the country is infected with salmonella bacteria'. Domestic egg sales plummeted and the proportion of eggs imported from neighbouring countries (including France) rose accordingly as people panicked about British eggs. Interesting times...
The Bluebell Girls in the Lido and the Doriss Girls in the Moulin Rouge wore feather plumes in their headdresses while doing the can-can, though it's unlikely that they were hen's feathers. Still, it's an evocative image... so we thought we'd mention it anyway, seeing as this is song is supposed to be about the festive spirit.
1 Normally just after the Queen's address to the nation, a glorious juxtaposition of two of the UK's greatest exports, though probably nobody really cares about that after a huge Christmas lunch.
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