Now that it’s finally socially acceptable to wear ugly sweaters and blast festive music from the car windows, the world seems to have decided once again that the holiday season is synonymous with shopping. Of course, the two most obvious questions remain: What are you going to buy, and how much is it going to cost?
Thanks to PNC, a national financial services corporation, the 36th annual Christmas Price Index might have the answers — at least for more creative gift-givers. The index analyzes the state of the economy at the beginning of each holiday shopping season, basing its calculations on the items in the famous carol, “The 12 Days of Christmas.” You’ll need a hefty bank account before you can follow that famous gift guide, though — in 2019, the price of all the items amounted to $38,993.59 nationally, up 0.2% from last year’s total.
Still, there’s only so much a national index can tell you about the cost of Christmas in Columbia. How much would mid-Missourians have to spend to check off everything on the season’s best known shopping list?
First day: a partridge and a pear tree
Price: Partridge, $5; Pear tree, $89.99–199
On the first day of Christmas my true love couldn’t find a partridge and a pear tree, but knows how to attract one a partridge and where to buy a pear tree as long as they’re in season. Helmi’s Gardens sells pear trees when they’re in season during the fall and summer, and their prices depend on the size of the tree. You can buy a 5-pound bag of feed to attract a partridge and birds alike at Songbird Station for $5.
What to buy instead: While a pear tree isn’t the most irrational idea for a gift the 12 days of Christmas recommends, it might not be the most ideal gift for someone right now, especially since pear trees are currently not in season. Consider gifting an edible arrangement for a pear-loving companion instead. As for a partridge, if the person you’re buying for is a big fan of old-school Christmas music, then the Partridge Family Christmas album, A Partridge Family Christmas Card, would be a perfect idea.
Second day: two turtle doves
Although currently out of stock, Petsmart sells doves for $39.99 each.
What to buy instead: Turtle doves are fine, but turtle candies are easier to come by and more than likely taste better.
Third day: three French hens
Bourn Feed & Supply doesn’t sell adult hens, but their chicks are $3.50 each. Of course, it’s hard to account for all the feed and other equipment it will take to raise the birds to adulthood — probably best to keep the extra expenses in mind around the fluffy baby birds.
What to buy instead: If your true love is going to balk at chickens (See what I did there?), try chocolate instead. Assorted chocolates are easy to find in gift boxes around this time of year. Look for a brand like Merci to add a french twist for the traditional third day gift in the song.
Fourth day: four calling birds
It’s not exactly clarified in the song what type of birds the calling birds are, but it has been said that in past versions of the song, these birds have been identified as canaries, mockingbirds or blackbirds. Petsmart does sell canaries, which are normally priced at $150 each.
What to buy instead: your own personal Bird scooter. No, seriously. It is possible to buy a Bird scooter straight from the company for $1,299, or an electric scooter without the brand name will do for a smaller price tag.
Fifth day: five golden rings
A 14-karat gold, 3-mm band will cost $250, says David Rubenstein, a sales associate at L.C. Betz Jewelers. Picking one for each finger will push your bill a bit over $1,000.
What to buy instead: Why not buy a single ring or another golden gift like a set of earrings? They’re still pretty, and they won’t blow your budget quite as much — a 14-karat pair, depending on the design, can come in at just under $250.
Sixth day: six geese a-laying
Much of the price of geese depends on what breed of bird you’re looking for, but a White Chinese goose from Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, Missouri, will cost as little as $11.55, or $20.95 for an adult female (necessary to have geese a-laying).
What to buy instead: Geese aren’t always the most docile of creatures, but a Canada Goose parka might be a nice alternative — if you’re willing to fork over some cash for the notoriously expensive name brand coat.
Seventh day: seven swans a-swimming
Swans can also be bought at Cackle Hatchery for $3,850 per pair, though prices might vary based on whether the birds have been pinioned, a procedure that alters the wings so the birds are unable to fly away. As a note, we’ve altered our total slightly to account for seven swans rather than the eight you’d actually have to purchase — the birds do come in pairs, after all.
What to buy instead: If swans sound like too much work, tickets are still on sale for the Russian National Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake, coming to Jesse Auditorium February 17. Tickets for the event range from $20 for children up to $40, so they’re also a bit more affordable than seven birds.
Eighth day: eight maids a-milking
Milk maids are paid based on the minimum wage, so at Missouri’s current minimum wage of $8.60, you’ll get $68.80 worth of maids a-milking.
What to buy instead: Of course it’s the thought that counts, but instead of milkmaids, pampering the person you are buying for seems like a much better pay off. Riversong Spa offers milk and honey pedicures among many other services.
Ninth day: nine ladies dancing
For local dance studios, nine dancers is quite an odd request but it can be done. Moon Belly, a studio that teaches belly dancing lessons, also offers a service where you can hire a belly dancer or two - or nine, to dance at an event. To hire nine dancers, at least a base fee of $125 is required, then $75 per dancer, totaling nine dancing ladies at $800.
What to buy instead: A less odd and more hands-on gift would be dance lessons through Columbia Dance Academy. The minimum age for the adult program is 18, and all levels of training are encouraged to attend.
Tenth day: 10 lords a-leaping
When you’re sick of nine ladies dancing, why not shift your attention to 10 lords a leaping? The Missouri Contemporary Ballet is based in Columbia and through the Missouri Arts Council’s website, you can hire dancers for performance. Depending on specific needs such as production and venue, the cost of this service ranges anywhere between $1,000 and $8,000.
What to buy instead: Instead of using these dancers for your own personal use, go see them in action. The Missouri Contemporary Ballet will be presenting LIVE! at Missouri Theatre on April 4.
Eleventh day: 11 pipers piping
Gail Fitzgerald, the band manager for Boone County Fire Protection District Pipes & Drums estimates the cost of hiring eleven amateur bagpipers for an hour of playing would come to around $400 each, though you would be much more likely to hire a band of eleven players than eleven individuals.
What to buy instead: Eleven bagpipers might seem like overkill, but eleven cookies with perfectly piped icing sure won’t be. Visit a number of local pastry shops to satisfy your true love’s sweet tooth, including Fluffybutt Cookies, where you’ll find decorative cookies and a number of other sugary treats for sale.
Twelfth day: 12 drummers drumming
The drumline needed for the final day of Christmas will still cost you a pretty penny, coming in at $1,500 according to estimates by Steve Kidwell, the Pipe Sergeant for Kansas City Celtic Pipes & Drums.
What to buy instead: Palen Music Center sells a variety of drum sets and other instruments, so even if you’re not hiring your own musicians, you could become your own entertainment with enough practice.
After the prices for every last swimming swan and calling bird are added in, the total cost of Christmas in Columbia — at least according to the song — comes in at only 69.14% of the national cost. Even if your shopping list isn’t filled with birds and performers this year, it’s certainly a reason to be jolly and the perfect excuse to shop local (especially when it comes to your true love). Still, if you’re wanting to save your bank account, maybe refrain from trying to count to twelve with each consecutive present.