The Twelve Days of Christmas Deconstructed and Overanalyzed

Each year during the winter holiday season, my wife pulls out a pile of Christmas themed books to read to the kids. My 7 year old still enjoys our nightly reading sessions.

Last night at the bottom of the pile I found "The Twelve Days of Christmas" pop-up book that my kid seemed a bit intrigued by. Usually he tells me to "STOP!" if I try to sing but he gave no such pushback as in my best sing-songy voice I recited the repetitive, cumulative lyrics of the familiar song, culminating in the finale:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a'leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a'milking,
Seven swans a'swimming,
Six geese a'laying,
Five golden rings!
Four coly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

For whatever reason I had never read this particular Christmas book, nor had I ever literally seen the written lyrics before. So for starters I start noticing there's a lot of birds in this list. And what is this "coly" bird? Well I find out that a coly bird is a blackbird.

Then I discovered that The National Audubon Society has been a Christmas Bird Count each year for over 110 years! Local counts are done around the world from mid-December to early January. You can learn more and sign up at Local Audubon bird counts take place this year in Thousand Oaks, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and the San Fernando Valley.

Then I start thinking, I get the drummers, leaping lords, milking maids and the pied pipers, but why would my true love give me nine ladies dancing? I mean, that would be pretty cool to have nine ladies dancing and all (in, ahem, appropriate attire, of course), but why would my true love do that? I dunno.

My boy seemed to enjoy the pictures in the book and he especially liked my skillful recitation of the the entire twelfth day lyrics using only one breath. That cracked him up a bit. Then I asked him what things on this list he would want. He took the twelve golden rings. Nothing else. Smart kid.

Then there's that "partridge in a pear tree" conundrum. First off, what really is a partridge? Someone mentions partridge and I think of Danny Bonaduce and Shirley Jones. But I find out a partridge is actually a type of pheasant and it generally eats grains, seeds and insects, not pears, which of course is the mental picture I had. Who knows.

On that note, I leave you with the Burl Ives classic version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.