The song is piped through the speakers in our favorite stores all season long. Your kids may sing it endlessly on car rides. It’s “The 12 Days of Christmas.” But where did it come from and, apart from their practicality, would it even be affordable to give all these gifts in 2021?
First, let’s talk costs.
The PNC Christmas Price Index Tells All
Every year since 1984, PNC Bank has released the PNC Christmas Price Index, which tallies how much each gift in the famous song would cost based on today’s market rates. The picture is not pretty this year, partly because the inflation rate is up to 6.2%, which is the highest it’s been since November 1990.
The Christmas Price Index is also up, PNC reported. The goods in the song would cost, on average, 5.7% more this year relative to pre-pandemic pricing, which is the largest increase since 2013.
PNC said that comparing 2019 data gives a more realistic picture than comparing 2020 pricing, when it may have been even harder than usual to obtain some of these specialty items due to lockdowns. For instance, the ladies dancing would have exceeded the limits for gatherings in 2020, and may not have been able to dance in formation due to social distancing.
So how much would all those gifts cost in 2021 dollars?
- A Partridge in a Pear Tree ($222.68): These have gone up largely due to the tree they live in.
- Two Turtledoves ($450): These birds cost 50% more compared to 2019.
- Three French Hens ($255): With the price of groceries rising, it’s not surprising egg-laying hens rose in price by more than 40% this year.
- Four Calling Birds ($599.96): These pets did not rise in price since 2019, presumably due to lack of demand.
- Five Gold Rings ($895): The price of gold has risen since 2019. Perhaps consider NFTs to show your love, instead?
- Six Geese-a-Laying ($660): Again, egg-laying birds rose more than 57% this year. At this price, you’d better hope one lays a golden egg.
- Seven Swans-a-Swimming ($13,125): Swans are super-expensive and hard to keep as pets. They should be kept in pairs or they get lonely. Cost aside, giving the gifts in this song is starting to sound like a really bad idea.
- Eight Maids-a-Milking ($58): Until the federal minimum wage goes up, the price for eight maids-a-milking will stay stable. Although if you want to keep those maids around in a tight labor market, you should probably pay them at least what they’d earn at Walmart.
- Nine Ladies Dancing ($7,552.84): The price for these performers hasn’t risen since 2019. Maybe they’re just happy to be dancing in front of a crowd again.
- Ten Lords-a-Leaping ($11,260): In a perfect example of the gender wage gap, the Lords received a raise from their 2019 rates, coming in 12.6% more expensive.
- Eleven Pipers Piping ($2,943.93): We don’t know the gender of the pipers, but they also received a 7.1% raise from their 2019 rates.
- Twelve Drummers Drumming ($3,183.17): Likewise, the drummers also received a 7.1% increase, showing the value of live music as we return to public gatherings.
In total, PNC Bank reports the cost for all 12 gifts at $41,205.58.
The Blessing (or Curse) of Compounding Presents
It’s important to keep in mind that the presents in the song could add up to orders of magnitude more because they compound daily. That is, on the first day of Christmas, your true love might give you a partridge in a pear tree. On the second day, you’ll receive another partridge plus two turtledoves.
By the end of 12 days, you’ll have 12 partridges (and their pricey perches!), 24 turtle doves, 60 golden rings (yikes!) … you get the picture. What are you supposed to do with 144 well-paid drummers? Start a marching band?
Much like your money can grow quickly in a bank account thanks to compounding interest, the presents from the song ultimately add up to 364 gifts, Good Housekeeping points out. At that rate, you’ll likely need a bigger home to store all those gifts, drummers and ladies — perhaps even a farm or ranch, or at least a small orchard for those pear trees. Let’s keep in mind that housing prices are also higher than they were this time last year.
So, think carefully before gifting your true love the presents from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” There are certain circumstance when life should not imitate art.