Five Gold Rings

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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 Five Gold Rings, and here's what our Researchers came up with when we asked them what on earth this line meant.

  • One Researcher, from Devon in England, called in to say that this is obviously a reference to the British Telecom promotion cunningly called 'Five Gold Rings'1. By giving your loved one 'five gold rings' they could phone you five times totally free. However this promotion, trialed in one small area of Devon, failed instantly as everyone simply connected to their ISPs and never came off. The cost to British Telecom was well over £1 million in lost revenue, and perhaps explains why there are so many h2g2 reserchers from Devon.

  • Perhaps this poem from that classic book The Lord of the Rings will shed light on the origin of this mysterious line:

    The Five Rings of Mordor
    Three rings for the elven kings under the sky,

    Seven for the dwarf lords in their halls of stone,

    Nine rings for mortal men doomed to die,

    And five rings for the herrings swimming to and fro.

    Or perhaps not.

  • The most obvious meaning of this line is the Olympic symbol of five interlocking rings. Modern Olympism was conceived by Pierre de Coubertin, on whose initiative the International Athletic Congress of Paris was held in June 1894. The Olympic movement brings together athletes from all five continents2 and as such is a particularly relevant at Christmas. Though the thought of doing any kind of exercise after half a turkey and three helpings of Christmas pudding is enough to make us weak. Pass the port, there's a good chap.

1Smart-arses who want to point out that in fact the promotion was named after the line in the song and not the other way round should note that this is only for fun. Now smile.2Yes, we thought there were seven continents too, but one presumes M. de Coubertin meant North America, Asia, Australasia, South America and Europe.

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