Christmas 2011

Stephen DeAngelis

December 23, 2011

Although Sunday is the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, it is part of larger holiday season that marks the end of another year. One of the favorite carols sung during the holiday season is the “The 12 Days of Christmas.” For the past 28 years, PNC Wealth Management has calculated how much it would cost to buy the gifts mentioned in the song. This year’s grand total is $24,263.18 — up 3.5 percent from last year. To see how PNC Wealth Management calculates this total, click on this link for a fun, interactive train ride.

The $24,263.18 figure is the grand total only if you don’t take the song at it’s word, which requires your true love, on each subsequent day, to buy anew all of the presents that came before. For example, on the first day, the song says that your true love bought you a partridge in a pear tree. On the second day, your love true bought you two turtledoves AND a partridge in pear tree. If you follow that pattern through to the end of the song, this year’s total surpasses the $100,000 for the first time (the exact amount being $101,119.84, a 4.4% increase on last year). Quentin Fottrell provides a gift-by-gift explanation of how this total is reached. [“The ’12 Days of Xmas,’ Itemized,” Wall Street Journal, 2 December 2011] Let’s get the gifts rolling:

Day 1: Partridge in a pear tree: $184.99 (+14%) — The pear tree accounts for $170 of that price, up more than 13% on last year, according to PNC Wealth Management investment strategist Rebekah McCahan, who compiled the list. The full-grown “Chukar” partridge costs $15, a 14% spike from last year, she says.

Day Total: $184.99

Running Total: $184.99

Day 2: Two turtle doves: $125 (+13%) — The cost of feed as well as availability sent the two turtle doves soaring 25% from last year — still weaker than the 79% increase in 2010. However, doves are less common than some of the other breeds and, as such, more expensive. Some can run up to $400 to $500 apiece, she says. McCahan sourced her doves at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Day Total: $309.99

Running Total: $494.98

Day 3: Three French hens: $150 (unchanged from last year) — After significant increases last year, prices for most of the birds remained relatively stable this year, in part due to the lack of demand. McCahan used “Houdan hens” — named after a town in France — and first imported to North America in 1865. Originally raised for meat and eggs, the Houdan is now predominantly used as a show bird. For money-saving purposes, experts say it does lay decent-sized eggs.

Day Total: $459.99

Running Total: $954.97

Day 4: Four calling birds: $519.96 (-13%) — The calling birds dropped in price by over 13% to $519.96. Male song birds usually have a territorial call and are more expensive, but this year the male and female birds were the same price. Strictly speaking, calling birds are European blackbirds, but consumers can also use canaries or other caged exotic birds, which would do the job just the same.

Day Total: $979.95

Running Total: $1934.92

Day 5: Five gold rings: $645 (-1%) — These 14-carat gold ladies rings were chosen for their very narrow band, which is why they’re so inexpensive. As recession-fearing consumers are still being careful with their holiday spending, the price for gold rings is actually down, despite the rise in gold over the last 12 months. “While gold commodity prices are at or near record highs, the demand for retail gold is waning,” Dunigan says.

Day Total: $1624.95

Running Total: $3559.87

Day 6: Six geese-a-laying: $162 (+8%) — Geese, which were sourced at the National Aviary, are a more popular seasonal dish than calling birds and Houdan French hens, so they were not nearly as expensive as those other items, McCahan says.

Day Total: $1786.95

Running Total: $5346.82

Day 7: Seven swans-a-swimming: $6,294.03 (+12.5%) — The price of these gifts fluctuates wildly depending on supply and demand. The cost of the seven swans-a-swimming typically provides the biggest swings from year to year in the survey: They rose by 12.5%, almost double last year’s 6.7% price hike, to $6,300. McCahan priced Trumpeter swans, with long necks, which are rarer and, therefore, more expensive than other breeds.

Day Total: $8086.95

Running Total: $13,433.77

Day 8: Eight maids-a-milking: $58 (unchanged on last year) — The maids’ costs remained flat along with the federal minimum wage, which currently hovers at $7.25, and hasn’t changed since The Fair Minimum Wage Act 2007, which increased the minimum wage by nearly 11%. However, this doesn’t include tips, and the minimum wage rules vary from state-to-state. For instance, Oregon doesn’t allow tips to be included in that state’s minimum wage of $8.50.

Day Total: $8144.95

Running Total: $21,578.72

Day 9: Nine ladies dancing: $6,294.03 (unchanged on last year) — McCahan got an estimate on how much it would cost to hire nine modern dancers for a private event from Philadanco, a Philadelphia Dance Company. Clearly, these would be an extravagance. “We are talking about a small basket of goods and services here compared to the Consumer Price Index,” Dunigan says.

Day Total: $14,438.98

Running Total: $36,017.70

Day 10: Ten lords-a-leaping: $4,767 (unchanged on last year) — These were priced based on an estimate given by the Pennsylvania Ballet and the lack of price hikes reflect the company’s rates. However, the Pennsylvania Ballet is currently offering 20% to 30% off subscription packages, depending on how many performances are booked in advance.

Day Total: $19,205.68

Running Total: $55,223.38

Day 11: Eleven pipers piping: $2,428 (+3%) — The price of these Scottish bagpipers was estimated with the help of a local musicians union in Philadelphia, McCahan says. Jimmy Mitchell, this Texas-based bagpiper, says the final cost would also depend on the requested playing time, location of the event (he does weddings and funerals) and whether his presence is required at a rehearsal.

Day Total: $21,633.28

Running Total: $76,856.66

Day 12: Twelve drummers drumming: 2,630 (+3%) — Again, the cost of these drummers was based on trade union rates. But there are hidden expenses for eccentric romantics with cash to spare who would like to emulate the list in its entirety. McCahan, who has been compiling the list for 26 years says the total price of the list doesn’t include a barn. “And, to house all of these, you would probably need one,” she says.

Day Total: $24,263.18

Final Total: $101,119.84

The Twelve Days of Christmas might be a bit extravagant for your taste; but, that’s alright. As an alternative, the late author Oren Arnold (1900-1980) recommended the following “Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” From all us at Enterra Solutions — Happy Holidays.