How Much Do the Twelve Days of Christmas Really Cost?

No matter how many times you’ve sung it — or found ways to avoid singing it — how well do you really know the classic Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas?” Keep reading to learn five revelations about the ubiquitous, repetitive Christmas song.

1. The “Twelve Days” don’t end on Christmas Day — they begin on it. The “12 days of Christmas” begin on Christmas Day and end on January 5, marking the time of “merry-making” until the Epiphany. The singer’s true love is generously extending his or her gift-giving for nearly two weeks after Christmas Day. Are we sure we want ANYTHING from 2020 extending into 2021?!

2. Is it “four colly birds,” or “four calling birds?” Believe it or not, there’s a debate on this one. “Colly” is an obsolete synonym meaning “coal or the color of coal.”  It is believed the original song sang “colly birds,” symbolizing blackbirds. More recent translations of the song sing “calling birds.” Regardless, the debate rages on.

3. “Five golden rings” may actually refer to five pheasants. It’s been noted that the song’s seemingly abrupt switch from four birds, to five pieces of jewelry, and back to six birds actually makes perfect sense: The “five golden rings” are likely a reference to ring-necked pheasants. I hope the movie “The Birds” doesn’t scare you because at this point, you’re getting a lot of them for Christmas!

4. The total number of gifts given in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is 364. Multiply each gift by the number of times it recurs in a full round of the song and you’ll see that the gifts’ recipient would have to rent a storage unit (and possibly a lake) to contain the bounty that includes 42 swans a-swimming, 22 pipers piping, and 40 maids a-milking!

5. In 2020, your true love would have to spend $105,561.80 to buy all 364 presents. PNC Wealth Management has calculated the cost of the gifts every year since 1984, in an annual report called the “Christmas Price Index. Below is a breakdown of the calculated costs of one of each gift:

  • ONE partridge in a pear tree: $210.18. In 2020 the partridge “stayed in place” due to COVID lockdown restrictions earlier this year, leaving the cost unchanged from last year.
  • TWO turtle doves: $450.00, with market volatility causing an over 50% increase in costs over 2019.
  • THREE French hens: $210.00, a 15% cost increase over last year. Perhaps they’re flocking together with the previously mentioned fowl?
  • FOUR colly/calling birds: $599.96, remaining unchanged from last year. Whatever they’re called, they’re not cheap!
  • FIVE golden rings: $945.00, an increase over last year due to increased interest in the precious metal at the onset of the pandemic. Perhaps your true love already bought you these before the pandemic?
  • SIX geese-a-laying: $570.00, also an expensive fowl with a 35% cost increase over last year.
  • SEVEN swans-a-swimming: $13,125.00. Your true love better have saved their pennies as these birds are going to cost them a pretty one! The cost does remain unchanged from last year, however. 
  • EIGHT maids-a-milking: $58.00. Since the Federal minimum wage hasn’t changed, this cost remains the same as last year. But milking through a pandemic should afford them some acts of goodwill from you!
  • NINE ladies dancing: Unfortunately, there’s going to be no ladies dancing this year due to the cancellation of live events because of the pandemic. Virtual performances reign supreme this year so your true love could appreciate the break on their pocketbook, eh?
  • TEN lords-a-leaping: Also unavailable this year, these lords are staying virtual through the pandemic. And, where exactly does one find ten “leaping lords?”
  • ELEVEN pipers piping: Again, the pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of our daily lives. So hopefully the only thing you’re catching this holiday season is an online musical performance from these pipers!
  • TWELVE drummers drumming: This is getting repetitive but again, no drummers in 2020! Hopefully next year they will be drumming to the beat of a different tune! 

Given the cancellation of live performances this year due to the pandemic, if your true love really wants to give you the presents in the song, 2020 is the year to do it, as they can expect to spend 38% less than they would have in 2019. They could even scale it back a bit and buy one of each of the twelve gifts, which would only set them back $16,168.14! How’s that for a holiday deal?

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