The Ruinous Nightmare of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

But will she help me deal with the poor, poor stomped geese?

As a child I never much cared for the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I didn’t know what the lyrics meant. All I knew was that it seemed to be about someone receiving Christmas gifts so stupid even I wouldn’t want them.

Six geese a-laying. Oh, boy. Fun for the whole family! Nothing says “Hooray, it’s Christmas!” like six pregnant geese wandering around your living room dropping eggs.

Now that I’m older, though, I understand that the lyrics to this cherished Christmas carol are even stupider than I thought. I guess. I dunno. But I do know that this is what I would think if someone gave me one of those gifts every day for twelve days in a row:

Day 1: A Partridge in a Pear Tree. Wow. This little potted tree is lovely! I love pears! Wait. Is that a bird?

Day 2: Two turtle doves. Why is someone giving me birds? Oh, but they’re so beautiful. I love doves. It’s cool there’s two of them; it’ll give them something to do. But now my partridge looks lonely.

Day 3: Three French hens. What the … ? Did I donate money to the Audubon society? A lot of money? Or maybe this is how they treat people who don’t give them money. What are these, chickens? What do I know about chickens? I wonder what kind of chickens these are? They seem so arrogant.

Day 4: Four colly birds.* Great. Now someone’s giving me birds that are coughing.

Day 5: Five golden rings. Whoa. These look like real gold. I don’t know what going on here, but clearly someone has robbed a combination jewelery-pet store, and is now trying to get me to hold their stolen good. Should I call the police?

Day 6: Six geese a laying. Well, now I definitely need to call a janitorial service. Can I sell these eggs? Do people eat goose eggs? I don’t see those hens producing anything. This is really getting out of control. I wonder if my mystery psycho Santa will send me any more jewelery?

Day 7: Seven Swans a Swimming. Okay, who the [bleeeep] put these [bleeeep] swans in my [bleeeeeeep] bathtub? This is insane. I’m calling the police. Oh, wait. The jewels. Well, I guess I can still take a shower—if these birds will just move over a little.

Day 8: Eight Maids a Milking. Great. And I’m lactose intolerant.

Day 9: Nine ladies dancing. There’s no way my wife’ll believe these women just showed up here. I shouldn’t have signed for ’em. I wish they would at least all do the same dance. One’s tapping; one’s doing the hula—and, oh, great, one just pirouetted into my bookcase. And I don’t know what that one is doing. It looks like she’s being attacked by mosquitoes. God, I need a drink. Not that I could even reach the kitchen.

Day 10: Ten Lords a leaping. Oh, my God! They’re killing the birds! Run, geese, run! It’s Chorus Line of the Damned !

Day 11: Eleven pipers piping. I now officially hate parades. Oh, well, at least the “lords” have stopped leaping. Not that that’s helping the poor, mangled geese any. Those milk maids look pretty hearty. Maybe they’d be willing to put the geese out of their misery. This is so horrible. Look at those birds with colic, or the plague, or whatever they have. They’re beyond hope. And I’m never going in my bathroom again; the swans in there have gone berserk. What feathery carnage! You know what? This is ridiculous. We’re moving. This home is ruined. We’re outta here. I’ll call my wife from the first motel I find. Those rings better be real gold, because they’re all I’m taking with me. That, and the knowledge that I won’t rest until I find out who destroyed my life.

Day 12: Twelve drummers drumming. Yeah, I’m gonna pretend I didn’t see that. They’re the neighbors’ problem now!


*[It’s colly, not calling. Over time, through usage, it became calling—and is, in fact, often printed as “calling.” But originally it was colly. They’re blackbirds. It’s from “colliery,” or “colly,” the British word for a coal mine. Cuz the birds are black as coal, doncha know.]

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Marie

    Hahahahaaaa!!! I just swallowed my gum!!
    “…I wonder what kind of chickens these are? They seem so arrogant.”
    Dammit, Shore!!!! Waaahahaaa!!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks; thanks very much. I’ll be here … well, until I die. (But seriously: I wasn’t sure anyone would get that [completely offensive] joke. So I’m so glad you did. I can always count on you to get the Big Jokes, Mrs. Muchnik!)

  • Susan

    *spews beverage* Run, geese, run! Ahahahaahahahaaa!

    (But I believe it’s 4 *calling* birds. ;P )

  • Anonymous

    It was originally “colly” but over time was changed, via usage, to “calling.” But maybe I should put a little note explaining that, cuz I know everyone thinks it’s “calling.” (And it IS often printed as “calling.”) They’re blackbirds. (Now how to work that note, though, into the text?)

  • Mindy

    LOL!!! Ya know, I hadn’t actually contemplated the excessive giving of birds in that stupid song, but sheesh. The feathery fly-off of one little parakeet about drove me nuts, so I’m with you on ditching the house. I just want to know if any of the lords were cute?

  • Elizabeth

    I have workmen in the hallway scraping paint. I laughed so long and so hard that they stopped and knocked on the door to make sure I was all right. And I love a good footnote.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous


  • Susan

    Ahhh, colly birds – colly being black like coal. Wow, I had a serious blonde moment there! Sorry, John!

  • You could make one hell of a turducken-type dish with that bounty, though! Several layers of plucked deliciousness.

  • Now I understand! Totally BRILLIANT!!!

  • lynnie

    you can pack them up and send them to australia, we love our wildlife and accordingly to recent aussie headlines, yours too, have a great xmas.

  • Barnmaven

    Oh, just send the animals this-a-way. It’s a zoo here anyway, no one will notice a few more feathered friends. Except maybe those arrogant french bastards.

  • Anonymous


    But wrong. So very, very wrong….

  • Kati

    Hilarious! Reminded me of this funny “correspondence”:

  • Meg

    One of them just pirouetted into the bookcase!! LOL John you’re hilarious!

  • Brian

    The drums. The DRUMS!

    Sorry…a little “Dr. Who”-mour never hurt anyone.

  • Great, thanks… now the people working in my house think I’ve completely gone off the deep end, laughing hysterically. I’m with Elizabeth on that… they’re looking at me like I’m a loon… Oh NO!!! ANOTHER BIRD!!!

  • J Sather

    Actually, the song is a nightmare if you’re dwelling in a modern single family dwelling. But if you are a lady in a great house in England then all these things signify the gathering of the elements for a Twelfth Night feast/party. Partridge swimming in pear sauce, “golden ring” neck pheasants, milk for butter, dancers and musicians. Sounds great!