Twelve Days of Christmas for a Family Man on a Budget

After many years of suffering from the absurdity of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” I’ve decided, that the song needs some new lyrics.  No one can afford all that ridiculous stuff: golden rings, maids a-milking, lords a-leaping. I have decided to replace those lyrics with things a family man on a budget could actually afford.

Here, for example, is how it starts.  (Use the same tune.)

[Verse 1]

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
A parsnip and some pear tea.

See? Totally affordable.  It may not be great, but (a) it’s something, and (b) there’s no messy bird to clean up after.  Eminently practical and not entirely unthoughtful. Besides, it gets better.

[Verse 2]

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Two turtle gloves, and
A parsnip and some pear tea.

What are turtle gloves?  Gloves knitted to look like turtles, obviously.  Useful?  More than some goofy leaping lords.

[Verse 3]

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Three French pens

These can get very expensive, so you have to “sort by price” on Amazon.  There is also something called a “French manicure pen,” $8.49 on Amazon.  Now we’re talking!

(Note to reader:  Nobody gets all the first day’s stuff over and over again.  You don’t get twelve partridges and pear trees, just one.  You don’t get thirty-five gold rings, just five.  So, we don’t really need to repeat all the earlier day’s stuff time and again, do we?  I mean, you can if you want, but some people think it just makes the song tediously long and borders on dishonesty.  I always have.)

[Verse 4]

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Four calls from nerds

Most of your friends and relatives are probably nerds.  This is definitely do-able.

[Verse 5]

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Five gold-colored things

Like what?  Well, there’s gold-foil-covered chocolates, gold-colored wrapping paper, a gold-colored necklace (actual gold content negotiable).  This is easier than trying to find two turtle doves or a partridge who will sit still in a pear tree.  So, look around.  If you can find a gold-colored French pen, you’ve got a two-fer.

[Verse 6]

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Six kids obeying

This is the most difficult one of the whole group.  But hey, it’s for your beloved.  So, don’t spare the rod or spoil the child.  It’s one doggone day, for heaven’s sake!  So, tell them they had better obey their blessed saintly mother like she was Mary, the Mother of God herself, or you’ll come down on them like God upon Sodom and Gomorrah.

What if you don’t have six kids?  Then mathematically, you divvy it up.  Three kids mean two days of obeying.  Two kids mean three days of obeying.

Six kids?  You’ll be lucky if you get the one day.


[Verse 7]

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Seven salon creams.

Why do women like all that goo?  I have no idea, but they do.  Talk to her friends; they will know her favorites.  You can get seven of one or – and here’s the really strange thing — seven different kinds.  What do they all do?  I have no idea.  But those salon places are like supermarkets full of goo, so you’ve got plenty of choices.

[Verse 8]

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eight margaritas.

Maybe not all at once.  But if music can soothe the savage beast, nothing better than a margarita to de-miserate a morose momma.

[Verse 9]

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Nine ladies night’s out

Note where I put the apostrophe.  That is one night out for nine ladies, and no one said you had to pay for the other eight.

[Verse 10]

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Ten loads o’ laundry done.

You do the ten loads.  Better than maids a-milking.  (Where do you put the cows?)  And if you say you don’t know how to do laundry then there’s nothing I can do to save you.  You’re a dope.  Just buy beer, I guess.

[Verse 11]

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love sent to me
11 pipers piping

I’m actually a big fan of bagpipes, and you could probably get a group of eleven bagpipers to play a tune for your beloved for free or a pittance.  Other kinds of flutes are also considered “pipes” for piping.  Even a tin whistle will do.  So, you know, when they’ve got one that actually works, why mess with it?

[Verse 12]

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love sent to me
12 nights of complete rest without interruptions

No alliteration, but it’s the best thing in here, and what woman wouldn’t want this more than drummers drumming?   No sleep with them around.  And no, you can’t substitute a 12-pack of beer.

You give her those twelve evenings of uninterrupted rest, and you’ll be the “lord a leaping,” if you get my drift.

I don’t know what that means either, but it sounds good, probably because almost anything can sound bawdy in English. “You’ll be the partridge in a pear tree!”  See?  Meaningless, but somehow still evocative.

So, there you go.  Twelve nights of Christmas for a family man on a budget.  No squawking geese.  No “calling birds.”  No French hens.  No birds at all, in fact.  (What is it with that other song’s obsession with birds?)  It may not be fit for a rich European aristocrat, but it just might work for you.

Merry Christmas.


*Image: May all jollity “Lighten” your Christmas hours. by an anonymous Victorian Era artist, c. 1870-1900 [Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN)

Randall B. Smith is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. His latest book is From Here to Eternity: Reflections on Death, Immortality, and the Resurrection of the Body.