A Partridge in a Pear Tree: “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a partridge in a pear tree.” We’re only just starting this song, and already, I feel confused. There are how many days of Christmas now? What kind of a present is that? …Pears come from trees? I only just learned that lemons come from trees, so anything’s possible, I guess. But can the tree support the weight of a fully-grown partridge? Are these going to be the good gourmet kind of pears, or the supermarket-style mealy ones? Questions, questions… Grade: C
Two Turtle Doves: Those are birds. Hopefully, the person getting these presents really likes birds. Me, I don’t like them so much, myself. Grade: C-minus
Three French Hens: More birds. That’s just great. Grade: D
Four Calling Birds: At this point, if I’m the one getting these presents, then I’m like: “Will the next present be some kind of a giant seed bell? Some suet, mayhaps? A shovel to scoop up all the bird crap? How the hell am I supposed to take care of all these birds? Because they seem to be accumulating at an almost exponential rate. It’s been four days, and already I have–” short pause to count on my fingers “–TEN BIRDS. Ten!” With any luck, this speech will be drowned out by the sound of background squawking, thus preventing a huge fight. Grade: F
Five Golden Rings: “FIIIII-VE GOOOL-DENNNN RINGS.” You know why we shout this part of the song? Because this is the only good present out of the whole bunch. …The next day at the bar, someone’s like, “So, what’d you get?” And you’re like: “A bunch of golden rings. Which was pretty awesome. And then…” you stare down at the surface of the bar and start mumbling “…some birds or something.”
Then, that person leaves. And then, as twilight starts to fall, you remain seated there, and resume your lonely drinking — calculating how much longer you can avoid going back to your horrible, hen-and-dove-infested apartment. Should you pawn the golden rings to pay for birdseed? Use them to make a down-payment on a second apartment? Outside, the darkness gathers; but you shake your head, unable to decide what to do. Grade: B-minus
Six Geese A-laying: Oh goddamn it. ….An-nnnd we’re back to this again. And these geese are a-laying, as in, laying a bunch of eggs? All right; that does it: “You gave me a bunch of pregnant geese? Thank you! THANKYEWSOF-CKINGMUCH.” Ideally, this comment should be accompanied by you headbutting the person in question. Enough is enough. I draw the line at taking care of a pack of baby goslings. F-ck that noise. Grade: F
Seven Swans A-swimming: Since I don’t feel like making more bird-related jokes, I’ll pause here to point out that there are “Twelve Days of Christmas” in the song, because that’s how they rolled in the Middle Ages, with a big endless festival of Christmastime.
And apparently, all of these presents are supposed to be religious metaphors, though I don’t totally get how that works. Like, “Four Calling Birds” secretly refers to the four Gospels in the New Testament. The “Six” geese represent the six days of Creation, and so on and so forth. …Hey, anonymous author of this song, way to sneak in an subtly encoded religious message. How clever/ subliminal/ propaganda-ish. Grade: D-plus
Eight Maids A-milking: This is the part of the song where I always start to forget the words, and just go with “Blah blah a-something!” Anyway, maids. Fine; nifty. Anything is better than birds. And when I think of a “maid,” I pretty much automatically think of low-grade, “Cinemax”-style soft-core historical porn, featuring girls in those black-and-white uniforms. So, there’s that.
But on the downside, these maids have clearly arrived ready to do some milking, but I own no cows. Nary a cow. Not a single one. Birds, yes; cows, no. And them bringing their own cows with them is not a clear improvement, to my way of thinking. Grade: D-plus again
Nine Ladies Dancing: These presents are starting to get vaguely sexier, and that’s good. Grade: A-minus
Ten Lords A-leaping: Less good. Grade: D
Eleven Pipers Piping: Jeez, is some sort of orgy going to break out between the maids, dancers, lords, and pipers? Sorry, but it still sounds so historical-porn-y to me. And hey, wait. …All of these people are just rented for the twelve days in question, right? I don’t actually own them, do I? Because if I did, that would be slavery — and slavery never makes for a good present. …And more importantly: can I give the birds back? Grade: D-minus
Twelve Drummers Drumming: Oh, man. I so don’t even care. Anyway, this whole song was just an endless slog to get to the one good “Golden Ring” part. …I remember being so excited by that part as a kid. I mean, that’s lame, yes — but I grew up in the 80s, which were pretty boring; I mean, we didn’t even have the Internet or iPhones or cable TV or Pokemons or Lady Gagas or whatnots. My family didn’t even have a VCR until I was twelve years old or so. And thus, I had to take my brief moments of entertainment where I could find them. “FI-IVVVE GOOOL-DEEEN RINGS!” Yay. Grade: C