As the holidays are upon us, it is time once again to dwell upon the mysteries and conundrums of the holiday. Such as whether some new musical atrocity shall replace "Grandma vs the Reindeer" on the "most hated" list. Or where all those camels come from for the live Nativity scenes. Or what we're going to do with the bad fruitcake we'll inevitably get. (Doorstop? Anchor for the boat? Keystone for that new building?)
And, of course, what the heck is the order for the Twelve Days of Christmas?
I figure most people out there can make it up through five with out any problems. Singing it properly, without belting out "Five G-O-L-D rings!" at the top of your lungs and in tune is another matter entirely, but we do all seem to know the carol from the partridge and the pear tree through those rings. (Speaking of which, who needs five gold rings? Given what a gold ring symbolizes these days, one is left to wonder if the male caroler is perhaps spreading a little too much Christmas cheer under the mistletoe.) It's what comes after the rings where the trouble lies.
Which is a little odd, given that every year some of us will be bothered to look it up. There's that joke about the restraining order that makes the rounds, and it's played on innumerable carol programs and sung in countless schools. There are even many picture books devoted to illustrating the carol in fashions both wacky and sincere, and if you have a little child that you read to you've got that reinforcement. All of which should firmly ensconce in our heads what order everything comes in.
And absolutely none of which seems to make any difference, because year after year, Yuletide after Yuletide, we get it wrong. Then proceed to argue about it, debate it, insist that we're one hundred percent sure there are only ten pipers – or is it twelve? – and inevitably be called upon to sing it when we really have no idea what comes after the five gold rings. (I myself only ever manage to retain the song through the coterie of birds. Beyond that I'm lost.)
Which is why we belt it out at the top of our lungs, in the sincere hope that no one will notice we're just mumbling our way through the next seven days.
To that end, as a public service announcement, I present to you, courtesy of the Muppets, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." In proper order.
So that next year, you can look it up here, again, and stop mumbling.