In the midst of the recent holiday season, someone alerted me to the idea that the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was actually a way for Catholic children to learn about their faith in the face of discrimination from the Church of England. )
As a Catholic who was taught by Episcopalian sisters as a young child, I was skeptical of this interpretation, and it didn’t take me long to find others who also disagreed with this interpretation .
This idea did, however, get me wondering, if such a “one to one correspondence” could be created for any subject. And so, as the twelfth day of Christmas arrives, I propose that this particularly odd collection of gifts given between Christmas and the Epiphany can be matched with ideas from my own discipline, Economics. I go on to present just one possible matching below.
First, the proposed “hidden meaning” of the song, associated with the days of Catholic persecution in England in the 16th century, which some claim was a way for children to learn about their faith.
• A Partridge in a Pear Tree = Jesus
• 2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
• 3 French Hens = Faith, hope, and charity, as the principle theological virtues
• 4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels
• 5 Golden Rings = The first five books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch,” which gives the history of man’s fall from grace
• 6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation (highlighting life)
• 7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
• 8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
• 9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
• 10 Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments
• 11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
• 12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed
Now, my proposed “hidden meanings” for the twelve gifts, which, perhaps, can be used for students to learn Economics.
• A Partridge in a Pear Tree = I point of equilibrium, where curves such as Supply and Demand. AD and AD, or IS and LM, intersect.
• 2 Turtle Doves = Two curves intersecting. Information about an equilibrium is found at the intersection of these two curves.
• 3 French Hens = Three measures of cost; fixed cost, variable cost, and total cost.
• 4 Calling Birds = Four graphs of cost; average fixed, average variable average total cost, and marginal cost.
• 5 Golden Rings = the four measures of cost, which, when combined with the equilibrium price level, allows for the calculation of the optimal level of production under perfect competition.
• 6 Geese A-laying = Four graphs of cost (average fixed, average variable, average total cost, and marginal cost) which, when combined with the quantity of output associated with each cost, as well as the competitively given market price, allows us to calculate the optimal level of production in a competitive market
• 7 Swans A-swimming = Four measures of cost (average fixed, average variable, average total cost, and marginal cost), which, when combined with the quantity of output associated with each cost, as well as the price determined by the demand curve, allow us to calculate the optimal level or production for a monopolist.
• 8 Maids A-milking = the number of qualitatively different results possible when shifting two intersecting curves on a graph either to the right or to the left.
• 9 Ladies Dancing = the seven measures of cost (fixed, variable, total and average fixed, average variable, average total as well as marginal cost) which, when combined with the quantity and selling price, allowing for the calculation of a profit maximizing level of output under perfect competition.
• 10 Lords A-leaping = the information needed to calculate the profit maximizing level of output for a monopoly; the 7 measures of cost, plus price, total revenue and marginal revenue for each level of output.
• 11 Pipers Piping = The number of years that the Great Depression lasted, from 1930-1941.
• 12 Drummers Drumming = the number of Federal Reserve Banks in the U.S.
Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!