Opinion: An economist’s take on the 12 days of Christmas Reply

It is December and Christmas hits are playing in shopping malls throughout the land. To conclude this year’s opinion posts we are offering an economist’s take on the Christmas shopping list.

Still deciding what to send your truelove for Christmas? The song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is the traditional English carol that tells of a series of increasingly impressive gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas from a person to his/her truelove.

After Eights in Santa format

After Eights in Santa format are not on the list (yet)

What makes this song so impressive is that the PNC Bank (in the U.S.) designed a Christmas Price Index, 29 years ago, according to the cost inflation of the products listed in the song. The song has been suggested to have been rewritten in English from French in approximately 1780. This index based on the song, calculates the current cost for each of the gifts that were presented in the song. This is a simple and fun illustration for students and the media to better understand the concept of the consumer price index (CPI), as the price changes are closely linked to the CPI.

The aim of this piece is however to determine the costs of the 13 gifts in the song purchased locally, compared to the cost of the same gifts purchased abroad. This will help determine whether shopping locally is more affordable than shopping abroad. Below is a list of all the gifts presented in the song, together with their 2012 prices. Local prices were obtained from Gumtree, Bid or buy, OLX, Avizandum and My wage, while international prices were obtained from local jewelry, pet and remaining U.S. stores, compiled by the PNC Bank.

♫On the twelve day of Christmas my truelove gave to me…. 2012 (Local) 2012 (International)
12 Drummers drumming

R 1 440

US$ 2 775

11 Pipers Piping

R 7 700

US$ 2 562

10 Lords-a-leaping

R 8 000

US$ 4 766.70

9 Ladies dancing

R 10 800

US$ 6 294

8 Maids-a-milking

R 61

US$ 58

7 Swans-a-swinging

R 7 000

US$ 7 000

6 Geese-a-laying

R 540

US$ 210

5 Gold rings

R 115 000

US$ 750

4 Colly Birds

R 140

US$ 519

3 French hens

R 150

US$ 165

2 Turtle doves

R 700

US$ 125

And a partridge in a

Pear tree ♫

R 1 500

R 20

US$ 15

US$ 189

Total cost

R 153 051

US$ 25 431

ZAR 224 557

From the above table it is evident that doing your “twelve day of Christmas” shopping this year, buying locally will be much more affordable. If you decide to shop abroad this Christmas, you may pay up to 68% more for the same products. The latter can be supported by the 2012 Big Mac Index, which indicates that a Big Mac in the U.S. costs up to 70.5% more than in South Africa.

The gifts sang about in the song, despite being cheaper in South African Rand (ZAR) terms, are however still very expensive—a whopping R153 051.68—it would be recommended to write your own Christmas love song, with a list of cheaper more sensible gifts, and then to present the entire package to your truelove.

The writer Harlan Miller noted that “Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words.”

Friends, have a blessed Christmas and a jolly new year.


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