The Suitcase Lady


December 25, 2018, 8:59 pm

Christmas is here, and I didn’t get a partridge in a pear tree or any other of those cool gifts, either.

This is no doubt a good thing, as our cats would have a grand time if all 23 birds mentioned in the Twelve Days of Christmas arrived at our doorstep. The carol, however, is a favorite of mine. I’m a hopeless romantic and the song is all about some over-the-top gift giving from an ardent suitor.

The history of the song is fascinating. Although the exact origins cannot be verified, most music historians believe it began in France. I’ll go with this as the French understand romance.

Most experts also agree that the song was a “memory and forfeits” game. If a singer could not correctly recall the sequence, a forfeit such as a kiss had to be given.

In 1780 the first lyrics of the song were printed in London. It took until 1910 for the song to reach America. Credit is given to a music professor, Emily Frances Brown, who taught at Downer College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She came across a copy of the song in a bookstore in Oxford, England, and took it home with her. Her choral groups performed the piece three consecutive years for holiday programs, and its fame spread across America.

Since 1984, the PNC Bank Christmas Price Index calculates the total cost of the song’s gifts. 2018’s total is $39, 094.93. The swans are the budget breakers… swans would set a suitor back $13,125.

As we begin the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are the days between Christmas and the arrival of the Three Kings on January 6, here is a rousing version of the song.



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