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"Twelve Days of Christmas" Items and Cost

Updated on December 06, 2016
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Most people are familiar with the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song about the gifts that are sent to a lover during the twelve days from Christmas Day, December 25 until January 5. Each year, the price of the items goes up. In 2015, the cost of everything on the list was $34,130.99. This year the total is higher with a $232.50 increase. If you intend to purchase those gifts in the song, be prepared to dish out $34,363.49. This is a big increase from the original cost of $12,623.10 in 1984 when the prices were first observed.

According to the PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index that was released on Thursday, December 1, 2016, the new list showed that prices for eight of the items stayed the same. Three of the items were more expensive. One item became less expensive than last year.

Days of Christmas
Gift to True Love
First
Partridge in Pear Tree
Second
Two Turtle Doves
Third
Three French Hens
Fourth
Four Calling Birds
Fifth
Five Golden Rings
Sixth
Six Geese-A-Laying
Seventh
Seven Swans-A-Swimming
Eighth
Eight Maids-A-Milking
Ninth
Nine Ladies Dancing
Tenth
Ten Lords-A-Leaping
Eleventh
Eleven Pipers Piping
Twelfth
Twelve Drummers Drumming

Origin of Song

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English Christmas carol and a cumulative song itemizing a list of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. The song was published in England in 1780 without music as a chant.

The items are unusual for gifts. Most people don't understand the meaning behind the gifts. However, the meaning goes much deeper than meets the eye. Think of why so many birds are included in the song. At the time the song was written, food was a big part of celebrations for the twelve days of Christmas. Some people think the birds were cooked to be part of the feast just as a turkey is part of the traditional Thanksgiving.

After a festive meal, there was music, singing, and dancing as part of the festivities. That's why there are some many people dancing and singing in the song.

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A Patridge in a Pear Tree

The first item, a partridge in a pear tree, is a bargain this year. Last year, the partridge was $25. This year it is only $20. The price of the partridge went down 2.3 percent because partridges are plentiful this year.

The cost of the pear tree this year is $189.99, the same as last year.

The pear tree is priced like the ones that come from a local Philadelphia nursery. The price of the partridge is determined by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

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Two Turtle Doves

Unlike the partridge in the pear tree, two turtle doves are not plentiful. In fact, they are scarce. The cost last year was $290 for the pair. This year they are $375. That's a 29.3 percent increase from the previous year.

Doves are a common symbol for love and peace. They are two Christmas themes. The turtle dove mates for life, so the giving of two turtle doves could be a way the lover is expressing his intention of love and marriage.

The two turtle doves, like the partridge and French hen prices, are determined by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

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Three French Hens

There are such things as French hens. However, they don't speak French. French hens are also known as Faverolles. The breed was developed in the 1860s in north-central France in the vicinity of the villages of Faverolles. The breed was given the name of the village. Faverolles, or French hens, were originally bred in France as a utility fowl, used for both eggs and meat but are now primarily raised for exhibition.

The three French hens did not change from last year's price of $181.50. The three French hens prices, like the partridge and two turtle doves, are determined by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.


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Four Calling Birds

The cost of the four calling birds remains the same as last year. They will set you back for $599.96. The price of a calling bird is similar to the price of a canary at Petco.

Many versions of the song use calling birds rather than collie birds. Some believe the calling birds in the song might be a variation of the collie birds which are also known as blackbirds.

Why would the person in the song give his true love a gift of blackbirds? The answer is that this would have been another gift of food. Blackbirds were plentiful and were a common food.

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Five Golden Rings

The price of gold has changed from last year. However, the price of five gold rings hasn't changed in the last three years. They are still $750.00.

The golden rings in the song may actually refer to ring-necked pheasants to keep with the theme of birds. Pheasants were a prized bird as they were both tasty and had long been associated with the nobility. So the five golden rings refer to five ring-necked pheasants, a dish that was sure to be served at some of the king's feasts during the Twelve Days of Christmas celebrations. That makes sense because there are birds in many of the first verses of the song. The golden rings as jewelry seem to be out of place in the song. To go along with the majority of people, Gordon Jewelers set the cost for rings as jewelry and not pheasants.


Six Geese-A-Laying

The six geese-a-laying seem to be a bargain since they cost only $360.00 for half a dozen. To gift someone with a goose was special, but to give six was very special. Not only are the geese valuable, but they lay eggs which increase their value.

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Seven Swans Swimming

The seven swans swimming are not a bargain at all. In fact, they are the most expensive items in the song. Even though the price is the same as last year, the swans aren't cheap. The price in 2016 is $13,125.

The seven swans are the most expensive items in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song.

Swans have been known to be associated with royalty. Perhaps that's why they are so expensive. They are often used as royal symbols and part of other decorations. Swans are often included in myths and love stories.

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Eight Maids-A-Milking

The maids are assumed to be unskilled laborers earning the federal minimum wage. All eight of them cost only $58.00.

Milk was not a common drink. It was reserved for special occasions. All eight maids were needed to keep the milk available during the twelve days of celebration.

At that time, it was the job of women to do the milking, and maids would have been available for that chore since they were not married with a family to take care of.

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Nine Ladies Dancing

Music and dancing were a big part of the celebrations at the time the song was written. Therefore, it is not unusual for the songwriter to want to entertain the true lover with nine ladies dancing.

A Philadelphia dance company estimates the salary for the nine ladies dancing as entertainment. The nine ladies don't come cheap. Their fee is $7,552.84, the same as last year.

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Ten Lords-A-Leaping

Just like the nine ladies dancing for entertainment, ten lords leaping could be there for the same reason.

The ten lords leaping probably refer to dancers who performed leaping dances between courses at feasts. Their dance was wild and energetic and was a popular form of entertainment. The lords were professional dancers brought in to entertain the guests while they ate.

The Philadelphia Ballet estimates the salary for the leaping lords to be the same as last year. All ten lords leap at the tune of $5,508.70.


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Eleven Pipers Piping

Keeping with the themes of entertainment, music, and dancing, there are 11 pipers piping. Their fee did increase by 2.8 percent. Last year, the cost was $2,635.20. This year, the cost is $2,708.40.

The pipers are like the other entertainers in the song. They are probably professional bagpipe musicians hired to entertain the guests and to provide music suitable for listening to and for dancing.

Twelve Drummers Drumming

The 12 drummer come at the end of the song to conclude it. The don't drum for free. The fee increased by 2.8 percent this year. Last year, you could hire them for $2,854.80. This year, you have to shell out a little more. They cost $2,934.10.

The going rate for drummers and pipers was set by a Pennsylvania musicians' union.

Online Purchases

Usually, online purchases are much cheaper than items bought in brick and mortar stores. However, that is not the case when purchasing the twelve days of Christmas items online

Keep in mind that you have to pay for shipping, and it cost a lot to ship live animals and people. If you purchase the same gifts online, you will pay $44,602.53 this year instead of $34,363.49 if not purchased online.

Last year, the online purchases were 2.2 percent less at a total of $43,626.73. For instance, that partridge that costs only $20 costs $95 online. Also, the 10 lords-a-leaping cost $5,508.70 in-person, but online those lords are more than doubled costing $13,373.35.

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