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5 Things You Didn't Know About "The 12 Days of Christmas"

by Scott Meslow

With only 12 days left 'til Christmas, we're in the heart of caroling season — and few songs would seem more appropriate than "The Twelve Days of Christmas." (Listen to the carol below.) But no matter how many times you've sung it — or found ways to avoid singing it — how well do you really know the song? Here, 5 revelations about the ubiquitous, vaguely irritating "Twelve Days of Christmas":

1. The "Twelve Days" don't end on Christmas Day — they begin on it.

The Holy Trinity Catholic Church explains that the "12 days of Christmas" don't begin on December 13 and end on Christmas Day; they begin on Christmas Day and end on January 5, marking the time of "merry-making" until the Epiphany. The singer's true love is generously extending his or her gift-giving for nearly two weeks after Christmas Day. (We're celebrating now anyway.)

2. It's "four colly birds," not "four calling birds."

Mike O'Connor of the Bird Watcher's General Store explains that "colly" is an obsolete synonym for "grimy or sooty, like a chimney sweep" — and the song's "colly birds" are actually blackbirds. It remains unclear why anyone's true love would actually give them four blackbirds, but the song's idea of a charming gift does skew towards the ornithological (See: Swans, geese, hens).

3. "Five golden rings" may actually refer to five pheasants.

Mike Bergin of 10,000 Birds explains that the song's seemingly bizarre switch from four birds, to five pieces of jewelry, and back to six birds actually makes perfect sense: The "five golden rings" are likely a reference to ring-necked pheasants.

4. The total number of gifts given in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is 364.

Multiply each gift by the number of times it recurs in a full round of the song and you'll see that the gifts' recipient would have to rent a storage unit (and possibly a lake) to contain the bounty, including 42 swans a-swimming, 22 pipers piping, and 40 maids a-milking.

5. In 2012, your true love would have to spend $107,300 to buy all 364 presents.

PNC Wealth Management has calculated the cost of the gifts every year since 1984, in an annual report called the "Christmas Price Index." (In 1984, the same gift assortment would have cost $61,300.) Those determinedly mobile swans are the most expensive item, at $1,000 each.

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Everything You Need to Know About Record Store Day
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iStock

The unlikely resurgence of vinyl as an alternative to digital music formats is made up of more than just a small subculture of purists. Today, more than 1400 independent record stores deal in both vintage and current releases. Those store owners and community supporters created Record Store Day in 2007 as a way of celebrating the grassroots movement that’s allowed a once-dying medium to thrive.

To commemorate this year’s Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, a number of stores (a searchable list can be found here) will be offering promotional items, live music, signings, and more. While events vary widely by store, a number of artists will be issuing exclusive LPs that will be distributed around the country.

For Grateful Dead fans, a live recording of a February 27, 1969 show at Fillmore West in San Francisco will be released and limited to 6700 copies; Arcade Fire’s 2003 EP album will see a vinyl release for the first time, limited to 3000 copies; "Roxanne," the Police single celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will see a 7-inch single release with the original jacket art.

The day also promises to be a big one for David Bowie fans. A special white vinyl version of 1977’s Bowie Now will be on shelves, along with Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78), a previously-unreleased, three-record set. Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Neil Young, and dozens of other artists will also be contributing releases.

No store is likely to carry everything you might want, so before making the stop, it might be best to call ahead and then plan on getting there early. If you’re one of the unlucky vinyl supporters without a brick and mortar store nearby, you can check out Discogs.com, which will be selling the special releases online.

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Jim Henson's Labyrinth Is Being Adapted Into a Stage Musical
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Henson Company

More than 30 years after its cinematic debut, Labyrinth could be hitting the stage. In an interview with Forbes, Jim Henson's son and Henson Company CEO Brian Henson shared plans to transform the cult classic into a live musical.

While the new musical would be missing David Bowie in his starring role as Jareth the Goblin King, it would hopefully feature the soundtrack Bowie helped write. Brian Henson says there isn't a set timeline for the project yet, but the stage adaptation of the original film is already in the works.

As for a location, Henson told Forbes he envisions it running, "Not necessarily [on] Broadway, it could be for London's West End, but it will be a stage show, a big theatrical version. It’s very exciting."

Labyrinth premiered in 1986 to measly box office earnings and tepid reviews, but Jim Henson's fairytale has since grown into a phenomenon beloved by nostalgic '80s kids and younger generations alike. In the same Forbes interview, Brian Henson also confirmed the 2017 news that a long-anticipated Labyrinth sequel is apparently in development. Though he couldn't give any specifics, Henson confirmed that, "we are still excited about it but the process moves very slowly and very carefully. We're still excited about the idea of a sequel, we are working on something, but nothing that's close enough to say it's about to be in pre-production or anything like that."

While fans eagerly await those projects to come out, they can get their fix when the film returns to theaters across the U.S. on April 29, May 1, and May 2. Don't forget to wear your best Labyrinth swag to the event.

[h/t Forbes]

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