Are there pipers piping or ladies dancing today? There are so many variations in the 12 days of Christmas, so I'll cover both today.
As for pipers piping, we don't have much in the way of musical pipers anymore. We have piper airplanes and pubs named after pipers. There are "The Pipers" - a pair of standing stones near The Hurlers stone circles on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, UK. According to folklore they represent musicians playing for three circles of dancers who were turned to stone for engaging in festivities on a holy day.
And what kind of pipe would they have been a-piping or playing? There's a folk pipe with six holes (also known as a fipple flute) , a tabor pipe with three holes, a reed pipe, and hornpipe. Flageolets were developed from the tabor pipe and became an orchestral instrument. In the U.K. there was a Pipers' Guild in the first half of the 20th century. Bagpipes are still with us, but they've been known as bagpipes since Roman times, so they don't seem to make sense as the pipes in our song.
In comparison "9 Ladies Dancing" is an expression that has been taken on to describe products and activities. One can get it barrel-aged at the Bruery - the Beer of the Month Club. There are several Nine ladies dancing videos, 9 Ladies Dancing Punch recipe at Serious Eats, 9 Ladies Dancing Productions, a 9 Ladies Dancing book on Amazon.
Who were these ladies? "Lady" is a civil term of respect for a woman among English speakers - the equivalent of gentleman. I expect that in this traditional song it is a formal title for woman of high social class. Gentleman/Lady is a rank in the hierarchy of royal, noble and chivalric ranks, as shown in the wikipedia entry for Lady. "Lady" has evolved into many expressive terms, some of refinement and others of derision. "Hey lady" would not be a term of endearment today. However, the "First Lady" is the well-known title for the U.S. President's wife.
Today's images celebrate the second of January with two flowers and two walls. Where does the blue path lead to?