Extravagant holiday shoppers need not look at the prestigious Neiman-Marcus catalogue for gifts this year when the simple gifts mentioned in that old song, "The 12 Days of Christmas," can turn out to be quite chic for a mere $21,292.
A partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five gold rings, six geese a'laying, seven swans a'swimming, eight maids a'milking, nine ladies dancing, 10 lords a'leaping, 11 pipers and 12 drummers can be bought for $4,901.
That would be a one-shot deal, however. Repeating the gifts for several days, as the song calls for, would cost $21,292.
Some of the animals may be difficult to get, but if shoppers have the time, they can find almost anything, including the mostly obsolete milking maids.
The Frederick County, Md., Farm Bureau says an eight-stall parlor setup would go for the outrageous price of $80,000. But Don Easterday, who heads the bureau, says farmhands could milk the cows from $4--the same rate as last year.
"Wages haven't increased much because farm income is certainly in trouble," Easterday said. "Hand milking isn't done much, but farmhands are hired to do anything the farmer wants."
Eight cows would cost about $750. The price for 40 cows--eight cows each for five days--would run $6,000. The milkhands would charge $32 if they worked two hours a day for both milking cycles.
"They've got to be milked twice or they get testy," he said.
A partridge in a pear tree would run $40--$480 for 12 days. A Baltimore Zoo spokesman says a quail would fall under the partridge category.
It would cost $3,000 for 30 French hens over 10 days--a drastic jump from the $300 quoted last year. But the zoo official struck a deal on the swans, asking only $35 for each, compared to $125 for black swans quoted last year.
Hens and Swans
"We carry whistling swans and they're much cheaper," he said. "For French hens we have Bantam hens and they're more expensive than the swans.
Calling birds, known as Kookaburra, cost $15 each and would run $540 for the nine days they are given in the song. Turtle doves would run $50 each, and 22 of them--two for 11 days--would cost $1,100. Emperor geese would be $50 each, running $2,100 for the seven-day package.
Brian Rutledge, Baltimore Zoo director, said the prices are for an adoption program that gives shoppers a nice certificate and color picture plus free passes to visit their feathery friends.
Gold rings are quite affordable at $40 each for a plain 14K gold band, according to W. Bell & Co., which has maintained its price from last year. Forty gold rings in eight days might be a tad much at $1,600 when there are only 10 fingers on a hand.
Lady dancers and leaping lords cost $75 per hour, says Fred Quinn, owner of the Quinn Casting and Theatrical Agency in Silver Spring, Md. Pipers and drummers are $63 each.
The total package of dancers, lords, pipers and drummers for the number of days required in the song costs $7,092.
Quinn says he has never gotten such a request, although he has been asked to provide elves for a corporate Christmas party.
"But my little elves are booked already," Quinn said. "You have to get them back in July if you want them for Christmas."
Quinn says he has four "little people" he sends out on such jobs and they charge $150 each.
"Yeah, they're worth a lot more than the dancers, mainly because there aren't that many of them around," Quinn said. "Dwarfs are a rare species, you know, but you can always get dancers."