What's With Those Twelve Days of Christmas?

Obviously, I like Christmas a little bit, but I've always been bugged by that "Twelve Days of Christmas" thing.

So: what's up with this "Twelve Days of Christmas" thing? I only ever counted one, except when I cheated and counted Eastern Orthodox Christmas on January 6. And what's the deal with lords a-leaping and maids a-milking and that cartridge in a bear tree jazz?

No, wait... maybe I got that last one wrong. But it makes about as much sense as some partridge.

So, What Gives?

While I could handle the three French hens or the geese a-laying properly roasted for Christmas dinner, with some turtledoves on the side -- not to mention a few golden rings -- the good old Christmas song is just plain silly, isn't it? And that's putting it mildly.

In fact, it's right up there with demanding figgy pudding in exchange for wishing someone a Merry Christmas. What the heck is figgy pudding? Does it have something to do with wassailing? Is it suitable for my kid's lunchbox, and if so, can I get it in convenient snack sizes?

Laying and Leaping and Such

Returning to the matter at hand... why would you want 10 lords a-leaping, anyway? Even as a child I thought that was dumb, and as an adult, I know from reading about British politics that the only way you can get ten lords a-leaping is if you dangle a bottle of Cognac from a rafter in the House of Lords.

No offense, Lords O'Leaping. But as usual, I digress.

Counting the Cost

So imagine my surprise when someone bothered to count up how much it would actually cost if your True Love gave to you all those things, not including all the goofy repetitions. And then recalculated it every year. As of 2011, your True Love's best price for the 12 Days of Christmas gifts peaked at a record $24,263.

No, I am not kidding. Pennsylvania's PNC Bank keeps count of what they call the Christmas Price Index. Oh, and the above figure? It's only for one of each. If you actually do all the repeat gifts, right down to 12 partridges in 12 pear trees -- a whopping 364 gifts in all -- you're looking at $101,119.84.

And no, please, don't ask me how they calculated that. Oy gevalt!

Yeah, I Know

Sure, there's a reason behind all this. You've got 12 days between December 25 and the Epiphany, the day when the Magi finally found Jesus and he was revealed as the Son of God.

Each of the 12 gifts and the True Love have meanings in Catholic catechism (check Wikipedia for the scoop). But I still think the song's silly. I prefer the Bob Rivers parody, which chronicles the Twelve Pains rather than the Twelve Days of Christmas.

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