Christmas carol needs tweaking

By Richard Leighton

Lately, we’re hearing a lot of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” That’s the carol in which the singer’s true love gives his (or her) gifts on each of the 12 days. Unfortunately, most of those gifts aren’t right for a Maine Christmas.

A major problem is that “True Love” apparently doesn’t know much about birds, yet half of the gifts are birds. Take True Love’s favorite gift, “A Partridge in a Pear Tree.” No self-respecting, seed-eating ground bird is going to stay in a fruit tree unless it’s nailed there. “An Eagle in a Pine Tree” would be a better first gift for us.

Things get worse the next day when True Love sends “Two Turtle Doves” — those are nothing but European pigeons; they could be invasive. “Two Mourning Doves” would work better here. To add insult to foreign trade injury, True Love next sends “Three French Hens.” There’s nothing wrong with our hens and buying local is good; “Three Maine Hens” would be a significant improvement when it comes to poultry-giving.

Then, things get obscure: True Love sends “Four Calling Birds,” whatever they are (parrots with cell phones?). We should clear this up with “Four Cawing Crows.”

Next, the only sensible gift is delivered: “Five Gold Rings” (which we wouldn’t mind getting). But then, after this one day of sanity, True Love’s odd romantic impulses revert to birds: “Six Geese A-Laying” are sent. Delivering geese while they’re a-laying is bound to result in a mess on the porch, if not injury to the UPS man. “Six Geese Migrating” would be a little better and have the benefit of gifting a vision of free-range birds.

Next, we have an unlikely winter delivery of summer birds: “Seven Swans A-Swimming.” For Christmas paddling gifts here, we need birds that can survive out beyond the ice; “Seven Loons A-Swimming” should do the trick.

These feathered offerings are just the warm-up for True Love’s big, loud finish with performance gifts. There are deliveries of “Eight Maids A-Milking,” “Nine Ladies Dancing,” “Ten Lords A-Leaping,” “Eleven Pipers Piping,” and “Twelve Drummers Drumming.” With two exceptions, these are (just barely) acceptable for a Maine holiday party. However, we draw the line at maids a-milking and lords a-leaping in the house. We’d allow “Eight Teens Moon-Pieing” and “Ten Men A-Beering,” though. That should patch this old thing up good.


Brooklin author/photographer Richard J. Leighton creates the popular “In the Right Place” posts online about life and nature in Maine. He will share a post the second Thursday of each month in The Ellsworth American. To see more of his work, visit

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