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Things You May Not Know About the 12 Days of Christmas

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“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is one of the most popular of all Christmas carols, yet it is also one of the most misunderstood. The song was first published in 1780, without music, to be chanted or simply spoken aloud. The tune we are all now familiar with was introduced in 1909 by Frederick Austin, an English composer. How many of the following facts about this popular carol do you know?

There Are No Calling Birds

The initial words to the song included the phrase “four colly birds” and not “four calling birds,” according to experts. Apparently, the word “colly” in 18th century Great Britain was a synonym for “grimy or sooty” and is no longer included in the dictionary. Colly birds referred to blackbirds, and at some point, that was changed to four calling birds – which sounds like a much more likely gift to a special someone.

The Golden Rings Probably Aren’t Jewelry

Doesn’t it seem strange that the song goes from the four calling or colly birds to five golden rings and then back to birds – with six Geese-a-laying? Many experts who have analyzed the song think so. Considering the fact that six of the first seven years refer to birds, it makes sense that the golden rings somehow refers to a bird as well. Indeed, the consensus is that the “golden rings” refers to the common golden band on the neck of a type of pheasant known as the ring-necked pheasant.

Can You Use 364 Gifts?

Many people mistakenly assume that the total number of gifts is the total of 1 through 12, or 78 total gifts. But if you read the song, it’s clear that “my true love” is sending some of the same gifts over and over until the 12 days are finished. The correct total of gifts is 364, which includes partridges in a pear tree for each of the 12 days – or 78 times – and 22 pipers piping

The Cost of the 12 Christmas Gifts

For many years, different experts have attempted to estimate how much the gifts in the 12 Days of Christmas would cost if purchased today. For the past 30 years, PNC Wealth Management has come up with a dollar figure for the 12 gifts. In 2012, it would have taken $107,300 to buy your true love all 364 presents (remember that the gifts accumulate during the 12 days so that the partridge is given 12 different times, the pair of turtle doves 11 times and so on). The cost in 1984 was $61,300.

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