Holiday Math: The Twelve Days of Christmas

Let’s face it, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is some 1% bullshit. Do you have any idea how much it costs to buy all that stuff? Well, the wonderful nerds at PNC bank figure it out every year, and this year’s grand total is $101,119.84, a new record. Damn. Of course, part of this is due to just how many gifts are involved. Remember, it’s not like you just get a partridge in a pear tree on day one; nope, you’re getting a dozen. I hope you have a big yard! By the time Epiphany rolls around on January 6*, your haul actually consists of:

  • 12 Drummers Drumming (at $2629.90 per 12)
  • 22 Pipers Piping (at $2427.60 per 11)
  • 30 Lords-a-Leaping (at $4766.70 per 10)
  • 36 Ladies Dancing (at $6294.03 per 9)
  • 40 Maids-a-Milking (at $58.00 per 8)
  • 42 Swans-a-Swimming (at $6300.00 per 7)
  • 42 Geese-a-Laying (at $162.00 per 6)
  • 40 Golden Rings (at $645.00 per 5)
  • 36 Colly Birds** (at $519.96 per 4)
  • 30 French Hens (at $150.00 per 3)
  • 22 Turtle doves (at $125.00 a pair)
  • and 12 Partridges in pear trees (at $184.99 each; $15 for the partridge and $169.99 for the tree)

That’s 364 presents, including 184 birds and 140 people (which isn’t at all creepy). The golden rings would be nice, but 40 of them is a bit excessive. If you’re on a budget, maybe just get one set of each gift, for a total of $24,263.18. Still too rich for your blood? Fine, just get a single partridge or a set of milkmaids (who are getting seriously underpaid compared to the rest). Or screw the list, how about a lovely gift card instead? I think that would be best.

*Contrary to popular belief, the 12 days of Christmas actually start on December 25 and run through January 5, also known as Twelfth Night. Different Christian traditions have different ways of celebrating the holidays of this period. The days before Christmas are known as Advent, which technically starts four Sundays before Christmas, although most people who celebrate it just start on December 1. It’s a lot easier to mass-market Advent calendars if it’s the same number of days every year.

**Colly birds? I always thought it was calling birds, but if Wikipedia is to be believed, it’s actually a nickname for blackbirds. The more you know!

By [E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

10 replies on “Holiday Math: The Twelve Days of Christmas”

My sisters have worked as a maids-a-milking, the pay is surprisingly good! But then we’re in New Zealand, the only thing that is going in this economy is the dairy market, so it makes sense in light of that.

They also don’t seem to require common sense when hiring a milker. On the first day of the job, one sister asked where the milk for her coffee was…. She was quickly informed that there was several hundred litres in a tank that she could use.

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