The 12 Days of Christmas

16 November 2015

Did you know that every year an American bank works out how much it would cost to buy all the items from The Twelve Days of Christmas?

Since 1984, PNC Bank has published what they call the ‘Christmas Price Index’, which estimates the real cost for each of the items mentioned in the song – as a humorous way to to measure the changing cost of goods over time.

The PNC Christmas Price Index for 2015 will be published in early December. Meanwhile, the PNC Christmas Price Index for 2014 is worth a look, with little animated stories for each day’s gifts, and some teaching resources for educators.

PNC uses the US federal minimum wage to estimate the cost of hiring the ‘maids a-milking’. They research other costs by consulting different retail outlets and service providers, for example: zoos and pet shops (for the various birds); a jeweller’s shop (for the gold rings); and a musicians’ union (for the cost of pipers).

Perhaps your students could do their own research to estimate UK costs? You could divide them into groups and allocate a different ‘gift’ or two from the song for them to research the costs. Encourage them to be imaginative – what else might contribute to the cost?:

  • delivery charges?
  • overtime?
  • a milking machine?
  • nests / ponds / homes / keepers for all the wildlife?
  • Fair Trade gold?
  • the dancers’ dresses, the pipers’ kilts or a full drum-kit for each drummer?

Here are a few other ideas for exploring the ‘cost of Christmas’.

Filling a Christmas stocking: How much does it cost to fill? How has this changed over time? This article from the Daily Express and this one from Go Compare look at the costs and the types of ‘stocking-filler’ presents. Smaller children could draw a stocking, and label the items inside. Where did Santa get them from? Do we think Santa is aware of Fair Trade?

The cost of time: Most people take time off at Christmas to celebrate the season with friends and family. (You can check this Guardian article to see which European countries get the most days off.) But as it’s the ‘season of goodwill’ many people also give up their time to take action for good causes at Christmas. For example:

Both links above have short film clips explaining how people can help.

Some people work over Christmas – this BBC article explores why some people choose to work on Christmas day, and this Guardian article looks at the different professions working on Christmas day. What would happen if everyone stopped working?

The cost of presents: Why do we buy presents? What’s the purpose? (This could be a good Philosophy for Children discussion!)

Perhaps Maths teachers could use one or two of these articles to get students to work out a few comparisons and percentages. Students could also survey their friends and family to see what they think they will spend on presents this year or the average amount they spend on a present. They could then combine the data and use it to work out different averages – mean, median, mode.

For more global learning ideas relating to Christmas and the festive season, take a look at our features:

Best wishes for the festive season from all at Think Global!

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