While the origins of the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" may be a mystery, one thing is certain: It's getting more costly to buy your true love all the items mentioned.
It would cost $78,100 to buy the 364 items, from a single partridge in a pear tree to the 12 drummers drumming, repeatedly on each day as the song suggests, according to the annual PNC Christmas Price Index compiled by PNC Wealth Management. The cost is up 4 percent from $75,122 last year.
Buying each item in the song just once would cost $19,507, up 3.1 percent from last year's $18,921. And shopping online would be costlier, with the total for the 364 items costing $128,886, up 2.5 percent from last year's $125,767. You would spend $31,249 online for each item just once this year.
Though a humorous look, PNC said the index mirrors actual economic trends. PNC has been calculating the cost of Christmas since 1984.
Helping push the cost up this year is the minimum wage hike, which bumped the cost of eight maids a-milking from about $41 to nearly $47.
"They have not had an increase since 1997," said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investment for PNC Wealth Management. "The good news is, if you're a maids a-milking, they will also see an increase in 2008 and 2009."
Higher food costs pushed the six geese a-laying from $300 to $360. And reflecting higher gold prices, those five gold rings will cost $395, up 21.5 percent from last year's $325.
"The cost of the gold rings in this year's Christmas Price Index reflects the general trend of increasing commodity prices in the Consumer Price Index, including gold," Dunigan said. "In addition, increased fears about inflation and the value of the dollar may have led investors to turn to gold as a safer place to invest their money."
Not everything is more costly. The price of a partridge ($15), two turtle doves ($40) and three French hens ($40) remained the same, as did seven swans a-swimming, at $4,200, and nine ladies dancing, at $4,759.
PNC checks jewelry stores, dance companies, pet stores and other sources to compile the list, Dunigan said.
If one had $78,000 to splurge for Christmas, there's "probably a Mercedes or a Hummer in there someplace," Dunigan said. "The key there is you'd lose the romantic value."
"I'm sure there's something on the list for everybody," he said. "If it was my wife, she'd probably go for five gold rings."
As for the origins of the carol, which has been around for hundreds of years, some contend the song was a coded way to teach aspects of Catholicism. According to such claims, the six geese a-laying represent the six days of creation and the 10 lords a-leaping represent the 10 Commandments.
Snopes.com, an Internet urban legend-debunking Web site, says there's no substantive evidence that the carol was used to preserve tenets of Catholicism.
The itemized cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas, according to PNC:
• Partridge, $15 (last year: same)
• Pear tree, $150 (last year: $130)
• Two turtle doves, $40 (last year: same)
• Three French hens, $45 (last year: same)
• Four calling birds (canaries), $600 (last year: $480)
• Five gold rings, $395 (last year: $325)
• Six geese a-laying, $360 (last year: $300)
• Seven swans a-swimming, $4,200 (last year: same)
• Eight maids a-milking, $47 (last year: $41)
• Nine ladies dancing (per performance), $4,759 (last year: same)
• 10 lords a-leaping (per performance), $4,285 (last year: $4,160)
• 11 pipers piping (per performance), $2,213 (last year: $2,124)
• 12 drummers drumming (per performance), $2,398 (last year: $2,301)