If you are thinking of giving your true love eight maids a-milking on the eighth day of Christmas, you might want to check on the return policy.
Let’s say it’s “exchange only” and your true love isn’t enchanted with those eight maids; your options could be limited. You might wind up eating the cost, which this year, according to the financial-services firm PNC Wealth Management, comes to $58.
That’s a bargain compared to some of the other items listed in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Ten lords a-leaping will set you back $4,767 per performance, and that’s if your gift is merely actors portraying lords. If you go with actual lords — members of the British nobility — the cost could be significantly more.
The price of six geese a-laying is up by about 30% over last year, but for some reason they are still less than half the cost of four calling birds, assuming you give canaries in that category. They would run you a little over $500 at Petco.
By now you may be thinking, “do I have to have twelve gifts? Why are there twelve days of Christmas in that silly song!?” (Calm down, the anticipated expense is making you irritable.)
The 12 days begin with Christmas and go until January 6th, which is observed in western churches as Epiphany. By some traditions, that was when the Wise Men arrived to visit the baby Jesus. The Greek and Russian Orthodox churches associate Epiphany with another event, but in any case that post-Christmas period of 12 days has been observed for many centuries.
In 1601, for instance, William Shakespeare wrote a play called Twelfth Night, with the action taking place at the end of the celebratory period.
The song that has inspired your generous impulse — “The Twelve Days of Christmas” — didn’t come along until later; it first appeared in English toward the end of the 18th century. Presumably the enumerated gifts were a lot more affordable back then.
Attempts have been made to attach symbolic religious significance to each gift, such as the eleven pipers piping representing the eleven faithful apostles. In all likelihood, though, the original lyrics were fanciful nonsense, a sort of singing game.
But let’s get back to your problem, which is the substantial investment you’re considering so that your true love can joyously sing this song. As you may know, shipping costs for French hens have gone through the roof this year. And don’t forget, the cost is cumulative — you have to spring for a partridge in a pear tree for each of the twelve days, and so on. If you’re going to do this right, you’re on the hook for 364 gifts.
Considering that the going rate this year for seven swans a-swimming is $7,000, and nine ladies dancing cost just under $6,300, and factoring in the other gifts, too… here’s the bad news.
You’re looking at a total cost of $107,300.24.
OK, it’s a very romantic idea, and I don’t want to throw a wet blanket on it. All I’m saying is, maybe your true love would be just as happy with a new Lexus, which would cost you about half that much. Just a suggestion.