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.
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?:
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:
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:
Christmas wishes – looking at Christmas communications and how they have changed