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Inflation means recreating 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' for 2021 will cost more


So far, the price of partridges has not been affected by this year's high inflation. But if you want a pear tree, that's going to cost you. Turtle doves and French hens are also getting more expensive. NPR's Scott Horsley has a price check on all the gifts in "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" song.


PERRY COMO: (Singing) On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Every year for almost four decades, the folks at PNC Bank in Philadelphia have been pricing partridges, calling birds, dancing ladies and the rest to calculate the total cost of this 12-day gift basket. When they started, in the 1980s, high inflation was still a ghost of a pretty recent past. But in the six years leading up to the pandemic, the bank's annual Christmas price index was about as exciting as Perry Como. Prices were remarkably stable, moving 1% or less each year. Now, though, rising prices are back in the headlines, and the inflationary tempo has jumped sharply.


RELIENT K: (Singing) On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three French hens, two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear a tree. On the fourth...

HORSLEY: The price of turtledoves has soared 40% since 2019. And - sacre bleu - French hens are up 50%. PNC's Amanda Agati says that mostly reflects the rising cost of bird feed and people to look after the hens. But strong demand from customers is pushing up prices as well.

AMANDA AGATI: Some of it is certainly the accelerating trends over the last few years we've seen around backyard farming.

HORSLEY: The price of six geese a-laying has jumped nearly 60%, but at least you get a half-dozen eggs out of the deal. And while you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, whenever there's uncertainty in the economy, some people like to park their money in precious metals. That's driving up the price of...


COMO: (Singing) Five golden rings.

HORSLEY: A handful of golden rings costs 8.5% percent more now than they did in 2019. Some of the gift items in the song couldn't be found at any price last year, when a lot of live performances were canceled because of the pandemic. This year, live entertainment is back, but you will have to pay more for lords a-leaping, pipers piping and drummers drumming.

AGATI: And ladies dancing, too - don't forget about those. We like to joke that true love is definitely going to be on the hook this year for a number of IOUs from last year.


COMO: (Singing) Eleven lords a-leaping, 10 ladies dancing, nine pipers piping...

HORSLEY: Collectively, the price of entertainers in the song is up 7.2% from 2019. Not everything is more expensive, though. The price of seven swans a-swimming has been treading water for the last two years. And while a lot of workers have gotten pay raises this year, the eight maids are still milking for the federal minimum wage of 7.25 an hour. That hasn't budged since 2009. The total cost for all 12 days of presents is up 5.7% from two years ago. Prices are even higher if you shop online, Agati says, because delivery and special packaging costs extra.

AGATI: Believe it or not, Amazon Prime free shipping is still not available for those livestock purchases. We joke, like, somebody call Jeff Bezos already. Right?

HORSLEY: Some of the items in the "Twelve Days Of Christmas" song could get stuck in snarled supply chains, so you don't want to wait till the last minute to order. Of course, not everyone wants to wake up on Christmas morning to find 12 drummers under their tree. But a nice gift for your true love - that's priceless.


PENTATONIX: (Singing) And a partridge in a pear tree - bum-bum-bum.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF 1895'S "12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.