A pause in my deep dive into the furiously fast to talk about something that plagues us every holiday season.
I do like Christmas. I really do. The sense of togetherness, gathering with friends and family to make the coldest, darkest days of the year* into the warmest and brightest. I say this because it’s kind of obfuscated by two factors: a) I don’t really get into the Christmas spirit until the third week of December, and b) I hate the music.
*Unless you live in the southern hemisphere, in which case enjoy summer, dick**.
**That was mean, I’m sorry. It’s just really cold this week.
Just… never got into Christmas carols. I would theorize that it’s because of my brief time in my elementary school choir, which from September until December was nearly exclusively Christmas carol-based, but that seems like poppycock. Aside from one somewhat embarrassing mishap singing on a department store escalator and one incident of fainting at a gig, something I had to be told happened later that day because it made so little impact on me, the sole trauma of my one semester in choir was giving up my lunch breaks. Not exactly deep wounds there. No, I’m pretty sure I just didn’t care for carols much to begin with, and being drowned in them for two solid months doesn’t help.
But there’s one carol in particular that takes way too damn long, and when you look at it, doesn’t make a lick of sense. No, not Jingle Bell Rock, though you could be excused for thinking so. Jingle Bell “Rock?” Maybe in the 50s it could be considered “rock,” but in 2015 it should be legally required to be called “Jingle Bell Old-Time Country Jamboree.” Unless it’s played by a death metal band. I’d allow that.
No, I’m taking about the 12 Days of Christmas. And if you follow along with me, you’ll see exactly why this “true love” giving you all these presents is a bad gift-giver at best, and a war criminal at worst.
“On the first day of Christmas–“
Gonna stop you right there, actually. How many of you out there actually understood what the hell “first day of Christmas” meant when you first heard this song? I couldn’t have been the only six year old saying “No, wait, back up, there’s only one day of Christmas, or at least only one when I’m getting any presents.” Okay, sure, in the UK, the Twelve Days of Christmas, or Twelvetide, is still a thing for some people. Some people. But in North America the whole idea was slowly killed by secular Christmas and Santa, and the rise of New Year’s Eve as a more popular holiday than 12th Night. Maybe the 12 Days thing was a big deal in 1780, when this bizarre pile of presents was first theorized, but today?
I get that we haven’t come up with a particularly iconic Christmas song since the Kennedy administration, but maybe if the traditions they refer to are dying, we can let a few of these go, is what I’m about to take a long time to say.
Now… what exactly has your true love decided to hand you between Dec. 25th and January 5th?
A partridge in a pear tree
Okay. Not super weird. A pet bird and a tree to keep it in. Although… it is winter. Like, super deep into winter. Not a great time to plant a tree, and that partridge isn’t going to want to sit in it right now. But assuming you have a lawn for the pear tree, and that it doesn’t die before it has a chance to sprout a pear, this… isn’t awful.
Let’s just establish something before we move on. There are two ways to take what’s about to happen. You can assume that this is the only partridge and pear tree combo that will be given out, or you can assume that every single day means a new partridge in a new pear tree, and that 11 out of 12 days will have fresh pairs of turtle doves, etc. I’m choosing to believe the former: that each item is only given once. First of all, because I think this list of gifts is weird and troubling enough as it is, and second, because the merciless pop culture critics over at Cracked have already broken down the financially crippling, feather-encrusted nightmare scenario that comes with assuming that each day you re-receive a fresh set of all of the gifts from the previous day, plus something new.
So this is your only partridge and your only pear tree. Just off the top of my head, partridges aren’t a very common pet bird, and pear trees are apparently hard to maintain and more than a little pungent, so I’d have some serious questions about this true love who assumed he/she had nailed the perfect gift.
Two turtle doves
Turtle doves aren’t exactly a low-maintenance pet. They need a diet of seed mix, fruits, vegetables, and gravel (for digestion). They need a bird bath and a well-designed cage. They need thirty minutes of exercise per day outside of the cage, which needs to be disinfected once per week. And they’re not even the prettier dove. If you’re picturing white doves, you’re way off.
This true love of yours better be damned sure you like birds, because they’ve just given you chores for Christmas. Well, for Boxing Day.
Three french hens
More birds. Great. Thanks.
According to my research, french hens are, in fact, the best chickens to keep as pets. If that’s what you’re into. And hey, free eggs? If you want? People might react oddly to being offered a partridge-egg omelette or a turtle dove frittata, but french hen eggs just sound fancy.
Still… still though. That’s six birds in three days. And weird birds. No parakeets, no parrots, but the uglier doves and chickens. Still, as long as we move on to proper presents soon, it’s not so–
Four calling birds
No? We’re still doing this? Okay. Four more birds. But at least these are songbirds. One could almost consider this a proper pet. Four at once seems like diving in with both feet, though. Ever cared for a songbird before? I hope so, because here’s four of them, on top of the hens, doves, and the partridge you already got.
At this point you’re going to need a full on aviary to keep all of these birds in. Probably a heated one, since not all of these are cold-weather birds. Certainly not the turtle doves. Not to mention it would be a place to keep your foul-smelling pear tree alive in late December. Why is this happening? Did you get, like, a bird statue from your grandmother, and then you put in on your mantle because it’s started to sink in that she’s not going to be around forever so you’d better start appreciating the hell out of her now? Then everyone saw it and assumed you’re totes into birds?
Five golden rings
Now we’re talking. Rings! Golden rings! Admittedly a lot of them. I mean, I probably wouldn’t wear five golden rings all the time. I once considered wearing a grad ring and a wedding band, then as a result had a dream where Liberace accused me of being a little too flashy, but hey, you do you. I know several people, male and female, who make multiple rings work, and it is your true love giving them to you, so it’s not horribly forward or anything.
And even if you only wear one or two of them at a time, at least your true love has stopped giving you birds.
Six geese a-laying
Oh god damn it. Come on now, when are you going to sit your true love down and ask them who could possibly need, or even want, this many fucking birds? Or this many types of bird?
And we have moved on from cute, small birds, too. Geese? Fucking geese? Geese can be aggressive, you know. These are not pretty birds to keep around the house. Or let into it. If you weren’t building an aviary before, you are now, and it had better have pens for the geese. And good luck hiring someone to build it for you on December 30th.
Before you suggest that you now have access to free fois gras, I’d ask you to consider whether killing and slaughtering your own geese, then dealing with judgemental glares from every vegetarian you know, is actually worth not just buying some in a store. Assuming you even know how to get proper foie gras out of a living, honking, hissing goose that your bird-crazy true love has dropped on your doorstep the day before New Year’s Eve.
Oh yes, and there’s all these goose eggs to deal with. Which means that these six geese might be extra aggressive, since they all just laid eggs and now here you are getting all up in their nests.
Seven swans a-swimming
SWANS? Swans. Forget what I said about geese being aggressive, because we’ve entered a new thing here. Swans will fucking fight you. Swans will knock you out of your boat, then make sure you never find land. Rowing races have been called off because of swan aggression, and rowing crews are basically tree trunks with smaller tree trunks for limbs.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, BITCH
Oh, and since swans are sometimes used to keep geese away from a property, it’s safe to assume that these seven swans a-swimming are going to have beef with your six geese a-laying, and that’s just going to agitate those delicate flower turtle doves, which–
No no wait, stop, shut up… seven swans a-swimming? What are they swimming in? There’s no way seven swans fit in any bathtub. I hope you have a pool, because if not, your Hitchcock-recreating “true love” just flooded something in your house. Your basement, your garage, your newly-built aviary, something just got turned into a swan habitat, and I’m willing to bet it’s not something you’d intended to be a small pond. But too late, everything you’d kept in your storage room is now under water and covered in swan shit. The good news is, you’ll be able to recover what’s left fairly easily, because the swans should be relatively cool until nesting season. The bad news is, it’s New Year’s Eve, and instead of getting ready to party, you’re dealing with a flood and twenty three pissed off birds because this psychopath you’re dating couldn’t be bothered to just get you The Flash on Blu-ray like a sensible person.
And it actually gets weirder from here.
Eight maids a-milking
Eight maids. Your true love has given you eight women. As a gift. Not to clean your house or anything… they haven’t signed you up for a cleaning service to deal with all the bird crap or the water damage from the swan habitat you didn’t ask for. No, these are milk maids. They milk cows, and according to the song (which we’ve probably been singing for five minutes by now), that is exactly what they’re doing. These eight maids are a-milking.
Your true love did not give you any cows.
Putting aside the person-as-gift problem for now (but oh will we ever come back to it), you have been handed criminals. These eight ladies are out there, in the countryside, sneaking onto farms and milking things, then presumably bringing their unpasteurized spoils back to you in your bird-infested house that I have to believe has been the subject of some noise complaints by now.
Happy new year. You are now running a gang of milk thieves. And since there isn’t a lot of overlap between “people qualified to milk cows” and “skilled cat burglars,” I don’t love your chances of getting away with this. A rancher, or worse, a factory farm is about to press charges against you.
Nine ladies dancing
So… now your true love has handed you nine dancers. We have dancers… being given as gifts. This… Your true love’s unorthodox gift plan has gone from a wacky, feathery nightmare to something horrible.
Let’s stop beating around the bush here. Your “true love” has stopped handing you increasingly large and potentially angry birds, and is instead giving you human beings as gifts. As pets. SLAVES. Your true love is a human trafficker. First, eight women who spend their nights stealing you milk, now nine women to dance for your amusement. Which, I guess, as far as women (probably eastern European or Asian) being offered “dance scholarships” in the west go, is less horrific than the usual. They may be slaves in a house overrun with birds and unpasteurized milk, but they actually do get to dance. That’s… something?
Oh, wait… is that why they gave you the rings? The five golden rings? Were they… were they supposed to be your pimp bling? Your true love was dressing you to be a pimp. Marinate on that. The only genuinely positive gift on this list is tainted forever.
Ten lords a-leaping
Oh no. No no no. It’s all becoming clear. I thought maybe your true love was just tapped into a terrible, terrible black market of human slaves and… mildly exotic birds, but it’s so much worse than that.
It is terribly, horribly, tragically easy to buy women. I assume there’s a way to do that on the dark web, something I hope to never, ever have to confirm.
This is going to a dark place. Let’s take a baby otter break.
Your true love didn’t just grab ten poncy-looking brits. No, these are ten lords. Noblemen. People who actually govern (when they choose to) in the UK. People with security and staff, people who would look for them if they went missing and turned up in somebody’s sour-milk-reeking slave mill and birdhouse. Kidnapping one noble takes work, and attracts attention. Grabbing ten? They’re either Kilgrave from Jessica Jones, controlling minds, or else your true love conquered a country. They marched in, seized power, rounded up ten of the ruling class, slapped them in chains, and shipped them to your house to jump around. Jump around. Jump up, jump up, and get down.
That may have been an inappropriate time for the House of Pain (they’re far from plain), but I thought maybe a touch of levity would help, given that you’re slowly learning that your true love is a goddamn monster.
Eleven pipers piping
Of course. Of course that’s next. What took so long, really? Surely those nine enslaved dancers and ten leaping lords could use some musical accompaniment. Let’s just kidnap a jazz band. Why not at this point.
Twelve drummers drumming
Sure. Come the fuck in. Drum up a storm. Somehow we’ve made it all the way to January 5th and the cops aren’t here, so bring in a drumline. It’s like a bird-poop-crusted Burning Man.
So let’s recap. What exactly has this true love of yours thrust into your home over the last twelve days?
Twenty-three birds, some of which are fighting, all of which are pooping, some of which have cages you’ve been neglecting to clean because of the chaos that followed, so I bet people are starting to get sick.
One hastily-constructed aviary to hold said birds. Hopefully. Which spared you nothing, thanks to…
One aquatic swan habitat, somewhere in your house.
No less than fifty slaves. Eight of whom are constantly stealing fresh, raw milk and stuffing it anywhere that has less than five birds. Nine of whom are dancing to the music played by eleven enslaved pipers and twelve involuntary drummers, making enough of a racket to draw the attention of the authorities. And let’s not forget the ten lords who were taken either as part of a war crime, or as part of a series of kidnappings that are probably bringing someone’s special forces crashing through your window.
Merry Christmas. You have the bird flu, some sort of milk-borne infection, and you’re on your way to the Hague to face prosecution for crimes against humanity. All because you fell in love with a monster who thought paying for a year of your Netflix subscription wasn’t “flashy” enough. And every year, you get to hear people sing about how you ended up in this mess with smiles on their faces, because somehow they don’t see that none of this is okay.
I mean Little Saint Nick is a bad song, but god damn.