The University Record, December 12, 1995

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About those 12 days with rings, ets. ---they'll cost you a cool $87,500+

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Sometimes the Christmas holiday begins in earnest even before the last little goblin has shed his costume. And then it is all over on Christmas Day. But in another era, Christmas celebrating began on Christmas Day and lasted for 12 days more---until Jan. 6, known as Epiphany or Twelfth Night.

And so it was for one young lad long ago who sent his love a partridge in a pear tree on Christmas Day and a bevy of gifts for the 12 days that followed. It must have cost him a pretty penny then. Today it would cost in excess of $87,000.

For that partridge alone the cost is now about $145, according to Dunigan's Taxidermy in Pinkney, and that's for the stuffed one. That cost doesn't include the $14 fee for a license to bag the bird. And the pear tree in which it roosts could cost as much as $210. According to Abbott's Landscape Nursery in Ann Arbor, a dwarf variety with thumb-sized trunk and only four to five feet high would cost $39. A Bartlett pear, on the other hand, standing 12 feet and with a two-inch diameter trunk, would cost a mere $210. Our love-struck lad is no piker so would naturally opt for the larger tree (complete with partridge) to be delivered on Christmas morning and each of the 11 days following at a cost of $4,260.

Two turtle doves were delivered on the second day of Christmas. A turtle dove, actually just a white dove, can be purchased for about $20-$25, says Ann Arbor Pet Supply, for a cost of $50 a day or $550 for 11 days.

On the third day of Christmas the lad had delivered three French hens. Not finding that variety, a Michigan lad could order a hen chicken from Kroger at a cost of about 59 cents a pound. Averaging about three pounds, the cost of one hen would be $1.77. Still, a Cornish game hen averaging about a pound and a half and costing $2.99 a pound would look good on the holiday table and would cost $4.49 each or $13.47 a day for three; or $134.70 for all 10 days remaining in the Christmas season. At least we wouldn't have to supply feed for these birds as they come from the grocery already "dressed."

Having four colly birds delivered on the fourth day of Christmas could become quite expensive. The closest feathered specimen to a colly bird in Michigan is a blackbird, protected as a native species. Therefore, catching and/or killing a blackbird could lead to a tangle with law enforcement, the courts, fines and time served. A reasonable substitute would be a mynah bird, available at pet shops for about $400. Four mynahs at $400 each would be $1,600 a day for a nine-day total of $14,400.

Five gold rings might not be as expensive as expected. Not wanting to be too flashy, our lad would probably pick out a thin band of 14K gold, which, according to A Investment Rarities of Michigan, would cost about $100 each or $500 a day and $4,000 for the eight days left until Jan. 6.

The sixth day of Christmas calls for six geese a-laying. Finding geese in Michigan doesn't pose a monumental problem, but again we could run up against that protected species or out-of-season regulation again. The next best thing would be six geese a-lying on the dining table, which would cost about $2.79 a pound for a bird averaging about eight pounds or $22.32 for one bird, $133.92 for six and $937.44 for the whole gaggle being delivered for the next seven days. This is a real price break compared to the cost of a smoked goose for the table, estimated to be $42.95 per bird.

You could rent seven swans and put them in your lake to do their swimming---assuming the lake already exists. Not figuring the cost of installing a lake, swans from Pitchfork Valley Farm in Dalton, Mich., rent for $250 each, making seven cost $1,750 or $10,500 for the next six days of Christmas.

This eighth day of Christmas could add up to some big bucks and a mighty big problem. Considering our young lover needs eight maids-a-milking and eight cows to milk, we have some staggering logistics and costs. Eight cows at $1,200 each total $9,600. Those milkmaids, now known as agricultural laborers, are available at $6.50 an hour. Considering they may be milking "by hand," which takes about a half-hour per cow, the labor costs per day come to $26. The total for cows and maids is $48,130, and as Janice Jones-Endsley of the Agricultural and Natural Resources Dairy Extension in Howell points out, this part of the project brings up some environmental concerns. We have not considered zoning regulations and any permits and/or fines incurred, nor have we given any thought to "animal comfort." Nor have the costs of manure removal been factored into this estimated cost.

Right after the cows come nine ladies dancing and 10 lords a-leaping. Here's hoping they will watch where they dance and leap. Concerning the going costs for a dancer, whether lord or lady, the University of Michigan Dance Department estimates that the current rate for a dancer is $35 an hour. The ninth day will cost $315 and the tenth day $350. If all of the dancers perform for just one hour each day, the total cost will be $2,310.

The 11th day of Christmas calls for 11 drummers and the last day of the holiday celebration calls for 12 pipers, all professional musicians. The Ann Arbor Federation of Musicians says the going rate for such instrumentalists is about $70 whether they play five minutes or a maximum of three-and-a-half hours. Figuring our lad wants the very most he can get from these musicians and has them drumming and piping for the maximum, the cost for the drummers would be $770 for one day and $1,540 for the last two days of the holiday. The pipers would come cheap at just $770 for the one day of piping.

These calculations bring the cost of gift-giving for the Twelve Days of Christmas to $87,532.14, or just enough to cause a credit card crisis. Maybe just singing the song will be enough.