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Twelfth Day

January 5, 2022

By Jim Rhodes

Today is January 5th. It is the 12th day of Christmas.

At our house, we prefer to continue our Christmas observance through the full 12 days of Christmas, and traditionally we invite all our friends over for a Twelfth Day of Christmas party. Since that’s not practical in this Year of Covid Omicron, we will just quietly pack away the bins of Christmas decorations, wreaths, baubles and ornaments to be stored in the garage for next year.

Tomorrow – January 6th — is traditionally celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the revelation of the baby Jesus as the Son of God. It is derived from the Greek word for reveal. Many Christian faiths honor this as the day on which the three wise men visited and worshipped the baby. Others celebrate January 6th as the True Christmas.

I can remember that when I was a child country folk referred to January 6th as “Old Christmas.” My curiosity piqued, I did a little research and learned that the phrase Old Christmas was formerly in common use in Ireland. There was a large population of Scotch Irish descendants in the Virginia mountain country where I was reared, so that may explain it.

On Christmas Day, after the opening of presents and a ceremonial eggnog or two, and before my traditional afternoon nap, I usually take advantage of the relative calm to pull down my well-thumbed volume of Shakespeare’s Complete Works from my bookshelves to re-read the bard’s great comedy Twelfth Night. It’s relatively short, just three acts, and easy to read in one sitting (although it takes me a wee bit longer because I prefer to read Shakespeare aloud).

Interestingly, Twelfth Night, subtitled “What You Will,” is not about the 12th day of Christmas at all. The name of the play was apparently derived from the date of its first performance in London at the end of the Christmas season in 1602. It’s really a cross-dressing comedy of errors – one of Shakespeare’s favorite devices — in which a male actor playing a female role (women did not act on the stage in Shakespeare’s time), dresses in male attire to woo his/her target true love.

Back to the twelve days of Christmas …

Personally, I adore much of the traditional music of Christmas, but I have to say it doesn’t take long for me to grow thoroughly weary of the endless sing-song repetitions of The Twelve Days of Christmas, with its tedious repetitious recitals of poultry, milkmaids, dancers, bagpipers and leaping aristocrats.

You might find this interesting.

I stumbled on this story, which was in the news recently.

For the last 38 years, PNC Financial Services has published an annual Christmas Price Index, which estimates what an American consumer would pay to purchase the gift items listed in the song.

For 2021, PNC announced the full price tag for all the 364 gifts would total $179,454, up 5.4 percent over last year’s Index.

The authors this year noticed large spikes in the exotic pet segment, affecting the Index for geese, doves, swans and hens, and rising costs of bird feed. Also, they observed that free shipping for online orders of livestock is not typically an option.

The authors also noted that live performances – after the extended Covid shutdowns—are starting up again. This has affected the cost of hiring dancers, acrobats, pipers and drummers, resulting in a surge of 7.2 percent over last year when they were mostly unemployed.

The price of gold rings is up 8.5 percent, reflecting the trend in precious metal commodity prices, but are thought to be a safe buy with more lasting value than hired performers or birds.

The cheapest itemized prices were $20.18 for a single partridge and $58 in labor costs for the eight milkmaids (although the Index does not mention rental and feed costs for the cows, or whether the eight women take turns with one cow or if eight bovines are needed).

The cost estimate of $11,260 for the 10 leaping lords seems a bit high to me, especially since there is something of a glut of unemployed titled aristocrats dozing happily in the UK House of Lords, but I suppose the cost would include their First-Class airfares to the True Love’s country of residence.

Surprisingly, the most expensive Christmas Index item is $13,125 for the seven swans, but before you place your order, it is suggested that you should ask if it includes the swimming pool.

And on that thought, Dear Reader, may I wish you a Happy New Year?