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Five golden rings and some Salem Lights

Five golden rings and some Salem Lights December 20, 2010

Every year at this time, PNC Bank tallies up the cost of all the gifts listed in "The 12 Days of Christmas."

It's a charming annual exercise, even if most of us wouldn't ever consider ever giving or asking for a partridge in a pear tree as a Christmas present.

I'm unclear on what all their final total price includes, exactly, since I've never really been clear on what the song was suggesting. "On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me / Two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree." Is that a reference to the same partridge and tree given on day one, or does the true love bestow a second P&PT on day two and yet another every day after that? If the latter, then it really starts to pile up: 12 partridges, 22 turtledoves, 30 french hens, 36 calling birds, etc.

I'm also not sure I trust PNC Bank's calculation for 10 lords-a-leaping. They apparently estimated this by asking the Pennsylvania Ballet what it would cost to hire 10 male dancers for the day. That's a decent approximation, I suppose, but while those dancers may be lordly, they're not really lords. When it comes down to it, lords probably aren't available for hire. They're lords, after all, one assumes they've got enough money that they don't need to hire themselves out for holiday leaping.

The real American analogue to lords would be senators — the members of the senior house in our legislature. And as everyone knows, U.S. senators are available for hire. If you want to know what it costs to get them leaping — "When we say jump, you ask 'How high?'" — just ask Halliburton or ExxonMobil or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about the going rate.

My biggest problem with this "12 Days of Christmas" exercise is that "The 12 Days of Christmas" is a really annoying song. I can only tolerate hearing it all the way through at most once or twice a year, and even then only if it's being sung by the Muppets or the McKenzie Brothers. Otherwise, no thank you. As far as Christmas novelty songs go, I'd put "The 12 Days of Christmas" in the same category as "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."

Which got me thinking about Christmas songs I do like hearing all the way through — songs I actually look forward to this time of year. And one of those songs, conveniently, includes a shopping list — a shopping list comprised of precisely 12 items.

So in addition to PNC Bank's annual true cost of "The 12 Days of Christmas" holiday exercise, I propose we start a tradition of calculating the total true cost of all the items listed in Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From the Family." Those items also have the advantage of being readily available for comparison shopping at your local convenience store, which is where the characters in the song are sent off to buy them during a low-brow, but apparently loving and festive, Christmas celebration. They are:

  • bag of ice
  • extension cord
  • can of bean dip
  • Diet Rites
  • box of Pampers
  • Marlboro Lights
  • celery
  • can of fake snow
  • bag of lemons
  • Diet Sprites
  • box of tampons
  • Salem Lights

I haven't done the research here, but I'd bet that even with the outrageous mark-ups at most 24-hour gas station convenience stores, the total for all of those items still comes to a lot less than the $96,824 that PNC Bank estimates the gifts in "The 12 Days of Christmas" would set you back this year.

Plus, this is just a much better, much merrier, Christmas song:

 

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