Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christ-Mass: Day 1 (Nativity)

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”

The period known as Christmastide begins with the Feast of the Nativity itself; specifically, with the evening of this first day, through the morning of the Feast of the Epiphany. And so the first day of Christmas is December 25-26, and the season ends with Twelfth Night on January 5-6. By tomorrow, you will stop hearing Christmas music on some radio stations, but at Chez Alexandre, whether here or on the road, as well as here at man with black hat, the Christmas season is just beginning.

Most of us are familiar with the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and the significance of the symbolism therein. But for those who do not...

Twelve Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Eleven Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles

Ten Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments

Nine Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Eight Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes

Seven Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and/or the seven sacraments

Six Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation

Five Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.

Four Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists.

Three French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues.

Two Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments.

One Partridge in a Pear Tree refers to Christ on Earth being crucified upon a tree.

True Love refers to God, who sent his only son to us.

[NOTA BENE: The use of this song as a "secret catechism" for children, employed by Catholics persecuted in post-Reformation England, is a matter of some conjecture, as pointed out in this article from But what do they know?]

Now then (and this should be a treat for those of you new to us), the return of a venerable man with black hat tradition ... or is it?

Since 1984, the cumulative costs of the aforementioned items have been used as a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator. This custom began with and is maintained by PNC Bank. Two pricing charts are created, referred to as the "Christmas Price Index" and "The True Cost of Christmas." The former is an index of the current costs of one set of each of the gifts given by the True Love to the singer of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The latter is the cumulative cost of all the gifts with the repetitions listed in the song. The people mentioned in the song are hired, not purchased.

The project is the brainchild of Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments with PNC Wealth Management. Each year he gives us the lowdown on last year's CPI, including a brief history, the impact of the economy on this year's results, and how the PNC CPI can be used in the classroom. The original 1984 cost was $12,623.10. The total costs of all goods and services for the 2013 Christmas Price Index is $27,393.17 (up 7.7 percent from $25,431.18 last year).

This year they've forsaken the usual video presentation in which they just tell us what we want to know, getting on the 3-D printing bandwagon as a means of keeping us in suspense. Earlier this month, they had a contest where you could go to the site, design and outfit your choice among one of the gifts, and submit it for consideration. Winners would get a 3-D printed copy of their creation. What you're supposed to do with it, who knows? But they couldn't just do the narrative as in previous years, as shown in the first video. No, they had to give us a little teaser, in the form of the second video.

Learn the details, including which items went up in cost, and which went down, by visiting to see the dog-and-pony show for yourself, such as it is (or you can read this piece in The Washington Times).

And on that promising note, don't you have anything better to do on a day like this? Your friends as well as your "friends" are waiting on Facebook and Pinterest.

Go forth and spread joy!


Romanitas Press said...


A blessed Christmas to you!

I wanted to offer a correction to the very first line of the "12 Days": "a partridge in a pear tree" has often been misinterpreted because of those unfamiliar with the traditional English liturgical practice of the hanging pyx in which the Blessed Sacrament was reserved.

The pyx was often shaped as a dove (or bird) and when viewed through a wooden rood screen (whose tracery looked like branches of a tree)... you get what I am saying.

The English were renowned throughout Europe for their special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, thus this also makes perfect sense as a Catholic catechism that "My True Love gave to me..." Holy Communion with Himself.

David L Alexander said...


Hey, that actually makes sense. Thanks for that little-known fact. We'll be sure to include it in next year's edition.