Asking for four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree for Christmas is really a bit much — unless your loved ones don’t mind blowing $1,286.45 on birds and fruit trees.
The figure comes from PNC’s annual index tracking “the true price of Christmas.” Every year for 32 years, the company has added up the total price of the items in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” from the leaping lords to the milk maids, to give a weird and wonderful reflection of how the price of different goods is changing in the U.S. economy.
This year, the cost of all of the items in the song comes to a staggering $34,130.99.
The priciest item on the list by far is the swans, coming in at $13,125 for seven swans-a-swimming. (Apparently swans are so expensive because they take a long time to breed, require specialized care, and are regulated in some states as invasive species.)
That’s followed by the gifts that involve live performances, including the leaping lords and dancing ladies, which PNC prices based on the salaries of Philadelphia dance companies.
At the cheaper end of the scale are the song birds and the eight maids-a-milking. PNC says that milkmaids are considered unskilled laborers, so their cost is given by the federal minimum wage, which has remained unchanged since 2009. The gold rings are also surprisingly inexpensive, due to the currently low global price of gold.
Most of the prices were flat from the previous year, reflecting an environment of very low inflation. “While the economy continues to chug along on a sustainable path, low commodity prices are keeping consumer costs down,” Jim Dunigan, the chief investment officer of PNC Asset Management Group said.
The exceptions included the leaping lords at the Pennsylvania Ballet, who got a 3 percent salary increase this year, and the turtle doves, prices for which spiked 11.5 percent from last year, due partly to increased grain prices. The price of the partridge in the pear tree rose 3.5 percent, propelled by a growing interest in partridge as a gourmet food, PNC said.
Here’s how the gifts add up:
1 partridge in a pear tree $214.99 (+3.5%)
2 turtle doves $290.00 (+11.5%)
3 French hens $181.50 (0.0%)
4 calling birds $599.96 (0.0%)
5 gold rings $750.00 (0.0%)
6 geese-a-laying $360.00 (0.0%)
7 swans-a-swimming $13,125.00 (0.0%)
8 maids-a-milking $58.00 (0.0%)
9 ladies dancing $7,552.84 (0.0%)
10 lords-a-leaping $5,508.70 (+3.0%)
11 pipers piping $2,635.20 (0.0%)
12 drummers drumming $2,854.80 (0.0%)
= $34,130.99 (+0.6%)