Monday, December 5, 2011


No, it isn’t the auction price paid for a slice of toast depicting Elvis but this year’s cost of The 12 Days of Christmas. As to be expected there is a 3.5 percent overall increase over last year’s total.

According to our local newspaper here’s how it breaks down:

A partridge in a pear tree: $184.99 (Up 14.2%)

Two turtle doves: $125 (Up 25%)

Three French Hens: $150 (No change)

Four calling birds: $519.96 (Down 13.3%)

Five golden rings: $645 (Down 0.8%) I wonder how this price is arrived at because I want to know if the rings are 10, 14 or 18 karat gold, since the karat weight would impact the price of the ring. Also, how wide are the rings? The wider, the more expensive. Someone needs to define this better as I don’t think it’s a good economic indicator.

Moving on.

Six geese-a-laying: $162 (Up 8%)

Seven swans-a-swimming: $6,300 (Up 12.5%)

Eight maids-a-milking: $58 (No change) I guess there isn’t a big demand for maids-a-milking, let alone eight of them.

Nine ladies dancing: $6,294.03 (No change) Finally a place where women are making more than the men! See below.

Ten lords-a-leaping: $4,766.70 (No change)

Eleven pipers piping: $2,427.60 (Up 3%)

Twelve drummers drumming: $2,629.90 (Up 3%)

After reading about this song year after year, I decided to do a little research to learn about its origin. Like everyone else, I turned to the Internet and specifically Wikipedia for the short answer. NOTE: I take Wikipedia with a grain of salt since the information is not always accurate or reliable. But here’s what I found:

--Although the specific origins of the chant are not known, the song is apparently older than the printed version, though it is not known how much older. Textual evidence indicates the song was not English in origin, but French, though it is considered an English carol.

--The song was imported to the United States in 1910 by Emily Brown, of the Downer Teacher’s College in Milwaukee, WI, who had encountered the song in an English music store. She needed the song for the school Christmas pageant, an annual extravaganza that she was known for organizing.

--The lyrics of The Twelve Days of Christmas may have no meaning at all. Its meaning, if it has any, has yet to be satisfactorily explained.

--According to The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, “Suggestions have been made the gifts have significance, as representing the food or sport for each month of the year.”

--A bit of modern folklore claims the song’s lyrics were written as a “catechism song” to help young Catholics learn their faith, at a time when practicing Catholicism was discouraged in England from 1558 until 1829. There is no substantive primary evidence supporting this claim, and no evidence the claim is historical, or “anything but a fanciful modern day speculation.”

--Since 1984, the cumulative costs of the items mentioned in the song have been used as a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator. This custom began with and is maintained by PNC Bank. Two pricing charts are created, referred to as the Christmas Price Index and The True Cost of Christmas. The former is an index of the current costs of one set of each of the gifts given by the True Love to the singer of the song. The latter is the cumulative cost of all the gifts with the repetitions listed in the song. The people mentioned in the song are hired, not purchased. The total costs of all goods and services for the 2010 Christmas Price Index was $23,439. The original 1984 cost was $12,623.10.

So there you have it. Lucky for me none of my Christmas presents are on that list.


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