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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 13 - "The 12 Days of Christmas" by Burl Ives - 25 Days of Christmas Angst

We can't afford partridges or pear trees.  You will just have
to be happy with your squirrel in a hickory tree.
Traditionally, the twelve days of Christmas refers to the days from Christmas Day to January sixth (the day of the Feast of the Epiphany).  Shakespeare's play, Twelfth Night, takes place in this time and takes it's name from the day before this feast day.

Recently the habit has become to turn the twelve days before Christmas Day into "the twelve days" with magazines, newspapers, retailers, and reviewers using the twelve days leading up to Christmas as a countdown to the holiday in which a different product, idea, movie, or song is promoted each day.

And then there is THE song.  This is the only song on this list that is itself a source of angst.  There is an undeniable similarity between "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and "100 Bottles of Beer."  Both are annoying and both are usually sung by people who are either bored (typically on a long car trip) or intoxicated (hopefully not on a long car trip).

If the song is about the traditional twelve days of Christmas (also called Christmastide), shouldn't the lyrics be "On Christmas day my true love gave to me...On the day after Christmas Day my true love gave to me...Two days after Christmas Day..." and so on?

I typically avoid quoting from Wikipedia, but as this is not an academic essay I can not resist repeating this unintentionally sarcastic line from the entry for this song:  "The lyrics of The Twelve Days of Christmas may have no meaning at all. Its meaning, if it has any, has yet to be satisfactorily explained."  Of course then in true Wikipedia style, there are at good half a dozen possible explanations for the lyrics posited.  

Since the song was first written down in English in 1780 it also seems to be one of the earliest examples of the commercialization of Christmas.  Perhaps it was written by a conglomerate of pear tree growers, the milking maid guild, and out of work actors who could portray "lords a-leaping" to earn some Christmas money.

Have you ever been forced to sit through a complete performance of this song?  I don't mean the traditional version from Burl Ive that I am "suggesting" today.  There are versions where the gifts are also taken away one day at a time which essentially doubles the length of this song.

The only worse Christmas musical experience I have had was to sit through Handel's Messiah.  Sure, I love the "Hallelujah Chorus" but the hour it takes to get to it is a special form of torture designed by Handel to punish sinners.

Preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days here:   

The most tolerable version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" I have found is by Burl Ives.  It is only passable because Ives' positivity is infectious.  His singing voice is like a warm, comforting, grandfatherly pat on the shoulder.  He could probably sing the phone book and it would at least be soothing.

The only versions of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" I really like are the ones that recast the list in a comical way.  The best of these is Jeff Foxworthy's "Redneck 12 Days of Christmas" (watch the music video on YouTube here:  http://youtu.be/VJOe3CXE-mA).  With lines like "Five flannel shirts" and "Some parts to a Mustang GT" Foxworthy presents a version drawn from the same themes as the rest of his comic work.

So, this holiday season I plead with you to not drink and drive, not to drink and sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and not to drive and sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

Twelve days of Christmas
as performed by Burl Ives

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

Resources:
Lyrics
http://www.sweetslyrics.com/368611.Burl%20Ives%20-%20Twelve%20days%20of%20Christmas.html

"Twelve Days of Christmas"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Days_of_Christmas

"The Twelve Days of Christmas (song)"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_%28song%29

25 Days Of Christmas Angst
Day Song Download/Purchase Info
13 "The 12 Days of Christmas" by Burl Ives Buy the full album:

Buy the song:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Christmas is so great let's have 12 days of it!
12 "My Favorite Things" by Lorrie Morgan Buy the full album:

Buy the song:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
This song is not just for easing your fears of a thunderstorm. Lorrie Morgan proves it deserves to be considered a Christmas song.
11 "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" by Judy Garland (from Meet Me In St. Louis) Buy the full album:

Buy the song:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
The saddest Christmas song of all time?
10 "Christmas, Why Can't I Find You" from How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) Buy the full album:

Buy the song:

Buy the DVD Blu-Ray Combo:

Amazon Instant Streaming:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
I think this song, more than any other, expresses the feelings that cause all of the angst. As we grow up or grow older and change it seems the world changes more.

Click this link to preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days:  http://www.carneylentz.com/p/25-days-of-christmas- angst.html
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