Most of us have probably all seen and heard the references to the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Merchants everywhere seem to use the reference as a means to bolster their advertising campaigns. In 2016, Amazon has used their own version of the Twelve Days of Christmas to highlight daily deals over twelve days. And many others use the reference to these twelve days as run-up hype to Christmas encouraging last minute shopping.
Some will even use the song to bring a bit of levity to the Christmas season.
Who could ever follow that but John Denver and the Muppets?
But do you know anything about the origin of the song?
Origin of Twelve Days of Christmas Song
According to Wikipedia the song was first published in 1870 without music as a Christmas Carol identifying gifts to be given daily during the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was more of a chant or rhyme. The tune with which we are most familiar originated in 1909 which added the drawn out version of the fifth verse.
The Twelve Days of Christmas is actually a festive Christian season to celebrate the nativity of Jesus. Christmas day, or the birth of Jesus, is the first day of this celebration which lasts through January 5.
In the United States it would appear that this twelve day celebration has been pretty much forgotten or done away with. Whether or not Christmas Day is the first day of twelve or the day preceding the start of celebration most of us will go on about our daily business with no regard to the meaning of the days following. The day after Christmas is usually one of the biggest days for retailers where unwanted or unneeded gifts are returned and gift cards are cashed in.
As is usually the case with tunes that come from earlier centuries without a good description of the original meaning, different interpretations prevail. Such is the situation with the song of Twelve Days of Christmas. While some seem to believe the lyrics of the song were to be used as a catechism song for Catholics, it is more likely that the lyrics and tune were used in a children’s memory and forfeit game.
Cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas Gifts (2016)
Calculating the current cost of the twelve days of Christmas gifts is an annual exercise. While it is fun to speculate I am not sure about the actual cost sources.
For whatever it is worth I present a chart below of the cost of each individual gift. Just hover over the day and the 2016 value of that gift should appear.
Below that is an image of a spreadsheet that shows the cost of the gifts as you progress through the twelve days. If you were to purchase only the gift of the day you would spend in excess of $34,000. If you wanted to buy gifts as could be implied as being an accumulation of gifts (day 1 would only be a partridge in a pear tree while day to would be 2 turtle doves plus a partridge in a pear tree), the total cost would be in excess of $156,000.