Christmas Price Index

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Christmas Price Index
The graph presents a long-term view of the increasing expenditure for Christmas, beginning with a baseline near $60,000 in 1984. The trend demonstrates a steady climb to just below $100,000 by 1994. This is followed by an abrupt decrease to approximately $50,000 in 1995. Recovering from this drop, the graph shows a resilient rise, achieving heights near $85,000 in 2009, and continues to ascend beyond that point over the years.
True cost of Christmas, 1984–2023
Christmas Price Index (US$)
 Year  Christmas
Price Index
Δ% in CPI True Cost of
1984 $12,623.10 +1.44% $61,318.94
1985 $12,765.99 +1.13% $62,818.92
1986 $12,920.25 +1.21% $63,402.22
1987 $13,871.75 +7.36% $68,740.80
1988 $13,785.63 −0.62% $67,745.74
1989 $14,598.78 +5.90% $70,961.21
1990 $15,231.72 +4.34% $72,205.12
1991 $15,455.79 +1.47% $71,907.19
1992 $15,581.96 +0.82% $71,618.71
1993 $15,760.70 +1.15% $72,258.42
1994 $15,944.20 +1.16% $73,258.42
1995 $12,481.65 −21.72% $51,764.94
1996 $13,195.86 +5.72% $54,478.36
1997 $13,343.86 +1.12% $55,086.26
1998 $14,214.90 +6.53% $58,405.09
1999 $14,940.17 +5.10% $59,719.33
2000 $15,210.22 +1.81% $60,307.18
2001 $15,748.81 +3.54% $62,935.17
2002 $14,558.05 −7.56% $54,951.31
2003 $16,885.28 +15.99% $65,264.28
2004 $17,296.91 +2.44% $66,334.46
2005 $18,348.87 +6.08% $72,608.02
2006 $18,920.59 +3.12% $75,122.03
2007 $19,507.25 +3.10% $78,100.10
2008 $21,080.10 +8.06% $86,608.51
2009 $21,465.56 +1.83% $87,402.81
2010 $23,439.38 +9.20% $96,824.29
2011 $24,263.18 +3.50% $101,119.84
2012 $25,431.18[1] +6.1%[1] $107,300.24[1]
2013 $27,393.18[2][3] +7.70% $114,651.18[2]
2014 $27,673.21 +1.00% $116,273.06[4]
2015 $34,130.99 +0.6% $155,407.18
2016 $34,363.49 +0.7% $156,507.88
2017 $34,558.65 +0.6% $157,558.00
2018 $38,926.03 +11.2% $170,362.26
2019 $38,993.59 +0.17% $170,298.03
2020[A] $16,168.14 -58.5% $105,561.80[5]
2021 $41,205.58 +5.7% (+64.6%)[B] $179,454.19
2022 $45,523.27 +10.5% $197,071.09
2023 $46,729.86 +2.7% $201,972.66

The Christmas Price Index is a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator, maintained by the U.S. bank PNC Wealth Management, which tracks the cost in USD of the items in the carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas".[6][7] The woman responsible for maintaining the list since 1986 is Rebekah M. McCahan. [1]


The Christmas Price Index was conceived by the Chief Economist of Provident National Bank as a humorous commodity price index to measure the changing cost of goods over time. Commodity price indices, as compiled by economics, use a "market basket" of certain goods and then measure the cost of the goods from year to year to gauge inflation in different sectors of the economy.

The Christmas Price Index chose the items in the popular Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" as its market basket: a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five golden rings, six geese, seven swans, eight maids, nine dancing ladies, ten leaping lords, eleven pipers, and twelve drummers. According to tradition, the purchasing of the items begins on December 25 and ends on January 5.


Number of gifts of each type and number received each day and their relationship to figurate numbers

PNC compiles both a "Christmas Price Index" and "The True Cost of Christmas". The "Christmas Price Index" is calculated by adding the cost of the items in the song. The "True Cost of Christmas", however, is calculated by buying a partridge in a pear tree on each of the twelve days, buying two turtle doves from the second day onward, for a total of 22 turtle doves, etc., for the complete set of 364 items.[8]

The price of each item is set as follows:[9]

  • The pear tree comes from a local Philadelphia nursery.
  • The partridge, turtle dove, and French hen prices are determined by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.
  • The price of a canary at Petco is used for the calling [sic] bird, though the price of a blackbird (colly bird) may reflect the original version of the song.
  • Gordon Jewelers sets the cost of the gold rings, though the gold rings of the song may actually refer to ring-necked pheasants.[10]
  • The maids are assumed to be unskilled laborers earning the federal minimum wage.
  • A Philadelphia dance company provides estimates for the salary of "ladies dancing".
  • The Philadelphia Ballet estimates the salary for the "leaping lords".
  • The going rate for drummers and pipers is that of a Pennsylvania musicians' union.


Like other lighthearted economic indicators, such as The Economist's Big Mac Index which tracks the price of the Big Mac hamburger in different countries, the Christmas Price Index nevertheless produces results which have meaningful interpretations.[11][12]

In general, the prices in the index have reflected the growing service economy in the United States—prices for goods have mostly fallen, but prices for labor have risen greatly. The cost of hiring ladies and lords, for example, has risen over 300 percent. After the high cost of the dancers, the seven swans are the most expensive item on the index; the unpredictable breeding cycle of swans makes their supply uncertain.[13] Much as the United States Consumer Price Index excludes volatile energy and food prices from its "core" index, the core Christmas Price Index excludes the swans; for 2008, the total price index rose 8.1% from 2007, while the core index rose only 1.1%.[14] The cheapest item in the index is the partridge, which, in 2008, could be purchased for $20.[14] Costs have generally risen and fallen along with the standard Consumer Price Index.

The survey also tracks the cost of ordering the items online; doing so is significantly more expensive, in part due to shipping costs.[9] In 2008, PNC estimated the total cost at $31,956.62, up 2.3% from 2007, while purchasing all 364 items online would cost $131,150.76, an increase of 1.8%.[14] However, if the buyer were to purchase each item from the least expensive vendor, the total index would be $19,844.95, a discount of 5.86%.[14]


The Christmas Price Index has been criticized for a number of reasons.[15] First, the index does not clearly define the products that comprise each of the twelve gifts. For example, the price for the eight "maids a-milking" only includes the cost of eight laborers at Federal minimum wage, while milking also requires at least a milk cow, goat, or other such animals, which is an additional cost.

Second, the index also relies on only one data source per gift when a more reliable approach might use several retailers.

Third, the index prices products that do not actually correspond with the actual gift described. The ten "lords a-leaping" are valued by using the cost of hiring male ballet dancers instead of real lords, as lordships are a title of nobility not recognized in the United States.


  1. ^ The 2020 index did not include nine Ladies Dancing, ten Lords-A-Leaping, eleven Pipers Piping, or twelve Drummers Drumming due to COVID-19 restrictions on live performances.[5]
  2. ^ The 2021 index increased by 5.7% based on the last comparable figure in 2019, or by 64.6% compared to the reduced 2020 index.


  1. ^ a b c "12 Days of Christmas total cost now tops $107,000". News 13. Orlando. Associated Press. November 26, 2012. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Goyeneche, Ainhoa (December 2, 2013). "PNC's Twelve Days of Christmas Price Index for 2013". Bloomberg. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  3. ^ Aldinger, Alan (December 2, 2013). "PNC Christmas Price Index: Bah, Humbug! PNC Christmas Price Index Surges 7.7 Percent In 2013; Prices Would Cause Ebenezer Scrooge To Cringe" (PDF) (Press release). PNC Financial Services. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  4. ^ Ferro, Shane (December 1, 2014). "Here's The True Cost Of Christmas". BusinessInsider. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "The PNC Christmas Price Index". Retrieved 2023-11-30. 2020 — The year that saw the single biggest percentage drop in the index (58.5%) as well as the lowest overall price of the index (only $16,168.14.) That version of the CPI did not include any of the four entertainment-related gifts, due to pandemic restrictions on in-person performances. [...] The year 2020 was especially challenging due to the pandemic and with the suspension of most live performances, we eliminated them from the index as they were not an option for the True Love, but they returned in 2021.
  6. ^ Spinner, Jackie (December 20, 2007). "Two Turtledoves, My Love: But Maids-a-Milking? Gone. Whole List? Money Doesn't Grow on Pear Trees". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2007.
  7. ^ Olson, Elizabeth (December 20, 2007). "The '12 Days' Index Shows a Record Increase". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Gaffen, David (January 5, 2007). "That's One Expensive Song". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 20, 2007.
  9. ^ a b PNC Financial Services. "PNC Christmas Price Index: History/FAQ". PNC Financial Services. Archived from the original on December 29, 2007. Retrieved December 20, 2007.
  10. ^ Mikkelson, David (December 24, 2013). "The Twelve Days of Christmas: Was the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' created as a secret code by persecuted Catholics?". Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  11. ^ Nephin, Dan (November 26, 2007). "'Twelve Days of Christmas' Gets Costly". Associated Press. Archived from the original on December 8, 2007. Retrieved December 20, 2007 – via Google News.
  12. ^ O'Hara, F.M. Jr.; O'Hara, F.M. III (2000). Handbook of United States Economic and Financial Indicators. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 328. ISBN 0-313-27450-9.
  13. ^ Olson, Elizabeth (December 23, 2006). "Those Leaping Lords Don't Come Cheap". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2007.
  14. ^ a b c d PNC Financial Services (2008). "PNC Christmas Price Index" (PDF). PNC Financial Services. Retrieved December 17, 2008.[dead link]
  15. ^ Fulcrum Inquiry (December 2011). "The 12 Days of Christmas: A Lesson In How A Complex Appraisal Can Go Astray". Fulcrum Inquiry. Retrieved December 13, 2011.

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