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Gold Rings, French Hens Lead to Pricey 12 Days of Christmas 2010

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Thinking of giving your beloved the magnificent panoply of gifts depicted in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? You might want to think again, unless you were one of the lucky folks this year with a big bonus—because, despite the tough economy, the price of the 12 Days of lore has gone up. A lot. In fact, it saw the second highest jump ever, according to PNC’s Christmas Price Index.

How much shall you pay for it? Let us count the ways. Thanks to PNC, we have a wonderful compendium of prices and percentages.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Index



% Change

Partridge in a Pear Tree



Two Turtle Doves



Three French Hens



Four Calling Birds



Five Golden Rings



Six Geese A-Laying



Seven Swans A-Swimming



Eight Maids A-Milking



Nine Ladies Dancing



Ten Lords A-Leaping



Eleven Pipers Piping



Twelve Drummers Drumming







You might be surprised to see that the fauna have some of the biggest price increases, when you factor in percentages. While you will be paying in the thousands for the pipers, drummers, dancers, and leapers, bear in mind how many people are involved in these operations. In contrast, the fowl component is definitely pricey for what you get (especially if you calculate by the pound), and has seen the biggest price increases percentage-wise of the lot—partially thanks to increases in the cost of feed. Dollarwise, you’ll pay far more for the ladies to dance; they’ll split an $820 increase among themselves.

Now, on to specifics. While the change for the partridge in the pear tree gift is small this year (only 1.3%), in 2009 it had fallen by 27.3%—not its largest drop, by the way; that was in 1990 . . .


when it lost 31.2%—and in 1998, it actually rose by 133.3%. The price is for both together; the cost of the pear tree was stable, but the partridge alone rose by 20% to $12.

Two turtle doves? Generally extremely stable, showing no change year over year for most of the years since 1984 that PNC has tracked the index, this year they shot up 76.6%. (In 2004 they lost 31%—a bad year for doves, evidently.)

Three French hens? Get out your wallets. Also usually very stable, this year they’re up by 233.3%. In 2004 they rose 200%—what was with 2004, anyway?

Pricey fowl, those four calling birds. Although they’ve held at that level for three years, they tip the scales at $599.96.

Five golden rings—now, you might think that, given the price of gold this year, they would be the most expensive of the gifts. But they’ve only increased by 30% over last year, PNC calculates, when their price rose 42.9%. Their single biggest increase was in 1987, when rings shot up 172.7% to $750.00. Compared to then, they’re actually a bargain. And, of course, how much gold is in just five rings, anyway? (Maybe Miyamoto Musashi knows; I could check his book. . . .)

Six geese a-laying? Unchanged from last year, coming off two years of double-digit losses (37.5% and 33.3% for 2009 and 2008, respectively). Their biggest gains came in 2004 (there’s that year again!) at 40%, and 2005 at 42.9%. One wonders how much money one might save if their eggs contribute to the grocery budget for the next year.

Seven swans a-swimming? Ah, now we’re getting into some real money. Expensive, those swans; you’d think for $5,600 they’d do more than swim. Their price doesn’t move often, but when it does, it’s by large margins: in 1995 they went down 50%, in 2002 they went down 40%, and in 2003 they rose by 66.7%. Volatility, thy name is swan. (No, not Bella, even if she did transition from human to vampire.)

Eight maids a-milking—minimum wage, no change this year, small change any year. Cheap at the price, but then, why is milk so expensive?

Nine ladies dancing? Unsurprisingly, the cost for these has never gone down, only up—although their single biggest increase was 25% in 1996.

Ten lords a-leaping—hmm. Dancing pays better than leaping. Biggest price leap (sorry, couldn’t resist) was in 1990, when it went up by 16%. Do they ask how high, I wonder, and on the way up?

Eleven pipers piping? If you love the skirl of the pipes, it’s a bargain at the price. If not, well, know any enemies you’d like to send them to? Their biggest price increase was in 1999, when the cost went up by 25%. Cost to drive an enemy mad? Priceless.

(And if you’re interested in hearing one of the best contemporary pipers out there—Peter Morrison of the Peatbog Faeries from the heavenly Isle of Skye in Scotland, check out some of the band’s work here. No need to thank me.—Editor Jamie Green)

Twelve drummers drumming—wonder if ear plugs are included? Again, small but steady increases, except for 1999—again—when the cost went up by 25%.

Now if you wanted to stay home and do all your shopping on the Internet, as so many have this year, you’d pay a premium—quite a hefty one, in fact, adding up to almost an additional $11,000 at $34,336.

And if you’re really a big spender and want to give all the appropriate gifts each day, be prepared: All 364 gifts over 12 days will cost you a whopping $96,834, which comes in at a 10.8% hike since last year.

Still feel like singing?