Every Christmas season there are lighthearted articles and news segments on the current cost of the gifts in the carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas." This year's whopping price tag tops $107,000.
I have compiled a practical, fun and sometimes whimsical list of suggestions inspired by the ostentatious gifts from the song. Let's keep the fun and lose the expense.
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
Go green. If you have a yard, make a family project out of planting a pear tree and it will reward you with years of fruit and memories. If you don't have a place to plant, take the kids to market, buy beautiful pears and make a delicious tart with them -- all while listening, laughing and dancing to the Partridge Family Christmas album.
Two Turtle Doves
Get creative. Buy some air-dry clay and spend an afternoon sculpting bird ornaments with your kids. You don't have to be literal, you don't have to be artists - let your imaginations soar. Your "turtle doves" will claim a featured spot on your Christmas tree for years.
Three French Hens
Actually, one would be plenty. Dust off your copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, gather the kids, crank up the Edith Piaf, pour yourself a Sauvignon Blanc and whip up a hearty pot of coq au vin. This is a wonderful way to spend a winter afternoon and will cost about $100 less than going out to a French restaurant. Don't forget the baguettes.
Four Calling Birds
This is a good time to review your mobile phone bill. Make sure you have the family plan that is best suited to your usage. Also, don't forget to set and enforce limits on your kids. If they go over their allotment, it should come out of their allowance.
Five Golden Rings
There is no substitute for gold, but it's pricey. Spend some dream time sipping tea and "window-shopping" the Internet while you give your kid a research project -- "Where does gold come from? What is the current price of an ounce of gold? When is the best time to buy gold jewelry?" Here's a hint: The most expensive time to buy jewelry is Christmas to Valentine's Day.
What's with the obsession with birds as gifts? We know that a "goose egg" is a synonym for "zero," and after receiving "five golden rings," that's how I would rate this gift. Sorry geese-lovers, but these birds are dirty, aggressive, loud and annoying. At one time, the best thing about this gift would have been foie gras, but it has fallen out of favor. If you live in California you're out of luck -- it's been banned since July 1.
Again with the birds! Trumpeter Swans -- once on the endangered species list -- have made a remarkable comeback. My latest project is a new free iOS app, Green$treets: Unleash the Loot, targeted toward kids age 5-8. The premise is to teach kids financial and ecological responsibility while having fun. The goal of the game is for kids to rescue endangered animals so they can be as lucky as the Trumpeter Swans.
You don't need an octet of domestic help -- just milk, ice cream and flavored syrups. Gather your troops and have a milkshake party. Don't forget to get out the fancy glasses and miniature umbrellas.
Nine Ladies Dancing
Have a dance party at home. Your kids can invite some of their friends. Get silly and have the kids play their favorite songs and teach the current dances to the adults. The adults play their favorite "oldies" and teach their dances to the kids. There's sure to be a lot of good-natured embarrassment.
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Eleven Pipers Piping
Remember those good old whistle-sounding plastic (flute) recorders we all played in pre- or elementary school? Get a couple of recorders, a little cotton for your ears, warn the neighbors and have your kids put on a "concert" for you. The word "recorder" comes from the Italian "ricordare" which means to remember -- you're sure to remember this concert for a long time.
Twelve Drummers Drumming
It is important to allow your children to "dance to their own drummer." Foster the precious individuality that we all had as kids. It would be great if we could remember that the holidays are not about who gives the best gifts or who gets the latest gadget. The memories we make now will make us smile years after the gadgets are obsolete.
Do you have any fun "twelve day" interpretations of your own? I'd like to hear how those milkshakes turned out. Please use the space below to share your comments.