So here we are on December 22. The days are now getting longer and winter has officially begun. So, apparently, have the twelve days of Christmas.
What exactly are the twelve days? I've always believed that they started on December 21st (the solstice), progressed through the 25th (five golden rings always seemed like the big money gift, so should be on Christmas day, natch) and ending on the twelfth day, January 1st.
I'm not sure why I came to believe this, but I think it had something to do with winter break at school. After doing a quick search (thanks again, Wikipedia) I fear I may be mistaken. James Frazier, in The Golden Bough, says it starts on the 14th and ends with the epiphany on the 25th. News to me. I like my way better.
Here's the Wikipedia entry on the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The Twelve Days of Christmas are (depending on differing authorities and sources) either the days from December 14 to December 25, (December 25 being the Epiphany), or the days from Christmas through the eve December 24 of Epiphany. Arguing in favor of the latter is that it coincides more closely with the liturgical Christmas season. However, the 19th century folklorist Sir James George Frazer, favors the December 14 - December 25 interpretation: The last of the mystic twelve days is Epiphany or Twelfth Night ... (The Golden Bough, 1922)
Update: The correct answer, according to another Wikipedia entry, is that the Twelve Days of Christmas are the days separating December 25th, Christmas, from Epiphany, January 6th, which was originally based on, or "viewed as a fulfillment of," the Jewish Feast of lights.
(It's really a cool story here...)
Even more shocking, to me at least, is the revelation that those five gold rings aren't the big ticket item in the list.
Cost of Christmas according to: "The Christmas Index" (12/2005)
* One Partridge in a Pear Tree $104.99 ($15.00 Partridge,$89.99 Pear Tree)
* Two Turtle Doves $40.00 ($20.00 each)
* Three French Hens $45.00 ($15.00 each)
* Four Calling Birds $399.96 ($99.99 each)
* Five Gold Rings $325.00 ($65.00 each)
* Six Geese-a-Laying $300.00 ($50.00 each)
* Seven Swans-a-Swimming $4,200.00 ($600.00 each)
* Eight Maids-a-Milking $41.20 ($5.15 each)
* Nine Ladies Dancing $4,576.14 ($508.46 each)
* 10 Lords-a-Leaping $4,039.08 ($403.91 each)
* 11 Pipers Piping $2,053.20 ($186.66 each)
* 12 Drummers Drumming $2,224.30($185.36 each)
Total Christmas Price Index $18,348.87
True cost of Christmas in song $72,608.02
$600 bucks each for swans? And personally, four and five hundred dollars for leaping lords and dancing ladies seems a bit much. Even lap dances don't cost that much -- or so I hear. Maybe they're paying them for three and four full days of work. And how come the milkmaids only get five bucks? If I was a milkmaid and those trampy pole-dancers were making a hundred times my salary I'd be pretty ticked off.
All I really want is a beer... in a tree. (SCTV forever!)