The Cost of True Love

12 days of Christmas illustration

The true cost of the 12 days of Christmas
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and give gifts to the ones we love. Or at least give presents to people we feel obligated to buy for.

One of the most beloved Christmas tunes of all time is “The 12 Days of Christmas,” which dates back to the late 1700’s. The tune gives an elaborate list of gifts that are given to his “true love” over a twelve day period. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a cumulative song, meaning that each verse builds on top of the previous verses. Each verse describes a gift given by “my true love” on one of the twelve days of Christmas…and so forth, until the last verse:

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

12 days of Christmas illustration12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
10 Lords-a-Leaping
9 Ladies Dancing
8 Maids-a-Milking
7 Swans-a-Swimming
6 Geese-a-Laying
5 Gold Rings
4 Calling Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Many of the gifts listed in the song would now be considered ridiculous to give. But have you ever wondered how much it would cost to give all of these gifts in modern times? Hint: it’s over one hundred grand.

The Cost of True Love: The 12 Days of Christmas [infographic]

Since 1984, the cumulative costs of the gifts in the song have been used as an economic indicator. The Cheif Economist at PNC Bank began the tradition, and is maintained by PNC Bank 29 years later. 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 full cost of all 364 gifts in 2012 would cost $107,300.24. I love my husband, but those gifts will NEVER be in our Christmas budget.


Not feeling rich enough to give all of those gifts to your true love, but can’t spend $107,000? How about a free and fun Christmas printable with the illustration for the infographic that my coworker Joseph LeBaron made? Download the 8″x10″ printable here.

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