Christmas Song Review: 12 Days of Christmas

OK, as the Cure once said, let’s get happy!

The 12 Days of Christmas. One of the standard Christmas songs, and yet it’s so antiquated and surreal that none of us can relate to it. Few of us know what a calling bird is, much less want four of them around, AND WHO IS GOING TO HAVE TO CLEAN THE CAGE, HUH? THANKS FOR GIVING ME TEN CRAP MACHINES IN THE FIRST FOUR DAYS, TRUE LOVE! Don’t even get me started on the swans and geese. My family had geese when I was growing up. I know from geese. And since the maids are a-milking, do they come with cows? Cause I don’t have a barn. And who knows ten lords, and how much political power does this true love have to convince the lords to come to my house and jump around?

Incidentally I was listening to the radio and a version came on that I had never heard. It had the croony-style of the 1940s, and the dude messed up all the later verses, and it made me physically uncomfortable. 12 lords a-leaping? ARE YOU INSANE, MAN? I’m supposed to get TEN of those. TEN. You fool!

So it’s surreal and illogical, but it’s so deeply set in my psyche that it bugs me when someone gets it wrong. Admittedly, it’s a pointless song, about as relevant as roasting chestnuts. And once you accept that, OK, some weird twitterpated guy out there is sending me birds and servants and possibly cows – and it gets even scarier if you consider the song as compound interest: 12 partridges and pear trees, 35 gold rings, 35 maids a milking, 22 turtle doves, etc – the song is incredibly tedious and repetitive. (I’ll cover overall repetitive Christmas songs on another day.)

Why do I love it so?

Because it is the most parodied Christmas song*, and those parodies are often awesome.

First we’ll look at the 12 Pains of Christmas by Bob Rivers, my far my favorite. I laugh every time I hear this. Every single time. Here’s why- the 12 verses are as follows:

The first thing at Christmas that’s such a pain to me…

  1. Finding a Christmas Tree
  2. Rigging up the lights
  3. Hangovers
  4. Sending Christmas cards
  5. Five months of bills
  6. Facing the in-laws
  7. The salvation army
  8. [kid whining]
  9. No parking spaces
  10. Batteries not included
  11. Stale TV specials
  12. Singing Christmas Carols

The funny part though is once the verse has been established, the singers often deviate the next time it’s their turn. So for example, the woman who sings about the in-laws also sings “she’s a witch, I hate her!” and “Gotta make em dinner!” instead of “facing the in-laws.” My favorite is the Christmas Cards guy, who has the line, “Oh, I don’t even KNOW half these people!” Actually guys 2, 3, and 4 are the best, as the rigging up the lights guy goes apoplectic with rage and the hangover guy gets more and more miserable/cranky.

Let’s look at Day 10.

The tenth thing at Christmas that’s such a pain to me:

  • Batteries not included
  • No parking spaces
  • BUY ME SOMETHING
  • Get a job you bum!
  • Oh, facing the in-laws!
  • Five months of bills!
  • Yo-ho sending Christmas cards!
  • Oh Geez, look at this
  • NOW WHY THE HELL ARE THEY BLINKING?
  • And finding a Christmas tree!

The song devolves at the end, I’ll just let you see for yourself.

Another one that is a favorite is only good for Phineas and Ferb fans, which also does a slight deviation from the repetition, only not as often as Bob Rivers does. The fifth day is Doofenshmirtz who wants “the entire tri-state area… or maybe just two states… or one single state… or promotion to colonel sounds pretty good, can I change mine?” The best line is Day 12, which I won’t spoil for the P&F fans- just watch.

Those are the only two I’m going to list, because I could go on all day and I really have some writing and laundry to do. But I can usually be amused by any 12 Days of Christmas song. I think it’s surreal antiquation works for it because you don’t get the outrage of changing the lyrics the way you would if there were a billion parodies of Away in a Manger. Don’t mess with the baby Jesus, but kick those milking maids and their cows out the door to make room for Batteries not included, or a weapon from A Terrorist Christmas (funnier before the turn of the millennium, admittedly), or Perry the Platypus gurgling.

Grade: B

* This is my own experience, it’s possible there is another one more parodied, but I haven’t found it.

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3 Responses to Christmas Song Review: 12 Days of Christmas

  1. J.R. Murdock says:

    My favorite version of the 12 days will always be Bob and Doug McKenzine’s

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEbUtpPQihM

    There is also an e-mail response to each of the 12 days that’s pretty funny.

    http://www.dezert-rose.com/humor/christmas/12daysreply.html

    Thank you for this Mur. The snark is awesome this time of the year :)

  2. Peter Ellis says:

    12 Lords a leaping is a British version.
    In England Lords are on top. In the U.S. Pipers are over Lords.