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IF YOU’RE A hopeless romantic, a hopeful suitor or just hoping to level up your gifting game, you might want to consider the presents in “The 12 Days of Christmas.” From partridges to ladies dancing to lords a-leaping, every gift is available in some form from local sources in the Bay Area.
The items in the holiday classic add up to 364 gifts, and just as a datapoint, should you be inclined to purchase them all, it would cost you $41,205.58. This is according to the Christmas Price Index, and yes, there really is such a thing, calculated annually by PNC Wealth Management, part of the PNC Financial Services Group.
However, that price is a national estimate, not specific to the Bay Area. In many cases, you don’t even have to buy an item to present it to a loved one here.
For example, there’s the two turtledoves. You can find mourning doves (also known as turtledoves) frolicking in Golden Gate Park free of charge.
Giving one’s true love a trip to the park is probably better than encumbering them with two birds requiring regular feeding and cage-cleaning anyway. The iNaturalist website offers more information on the birds of Golden Gate Park.
It’s easy to see why the turtledove is a symbol of love; “its ability to sustain its population … is due to its prolific breeding,” according to Wikipedia. One pair of these lubricious avians may produce up to six broods of two young apiece in a single year.
Next, the three French hens. French hens were known as “the queen of poultry” in the 1700s, when the “12 Days” was first published in English, according to the American Ornithological Society. In other words: They’re chickens.
Hens including Frizzle Easter Eggers, the Cinnamon Queen and the Speckled Sussex (these are real names. The chickens are not in the Federal Witness Protection Program) can be purchased at venues including Mill Valley Chickens. Prices vary. The latter’s chicks are raised in coops with fresh ventilation, natural lighting, windows and skylights, which in the Bay Area normally would run a human being at least $3,000 a month rent, but we digress.
(What is a “frizzle?” When the feathers curl away from the bird’s body.)
A blackbird by any other name
Now, the four calling birds. Turns out that they were originally “colly” birds, according to Peter Armenti, the literature specialist for the Digital Reference Section at the Library of Congress.
“In its original context, colly birds were indeed blackbirds. More specifically, they most likely would have been the Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula),” Armenti said in an email.
Finding a blackbird in the Bay Area shouldn’t be difficult; blackbirds are “incredibly abundant” in California, according to Birdwatchinghq.com.
Now for the five golden rings. Here are two quintessentially Bay Area sources: First, for folks with piercings, San Francisco’s Body Manipulations has gorgeous rings that can be used in a number of orifices. The $776 gem-studded Boston Tiger ring in solid 14-carat gold can be used as a nose ring and with other body parts, according to the website.
For the more conventional, Shreve & Co., which opened in San Francisco in 1852, has all manner of gold rings.
On to the six geese a-laying. The Canada geese that periodically visit the Bay Area are part of the fun of strolling around Lake Merritt in Oakland and Stow Lake in San Francisco. Watch out for the poop, though!
As for the swans, they are definitely a-swimming at the San Francisco Zoo — two black-necked swans, as a matter of fact. Incidentally, a large group of black swans is called a “bank.” To take your loved one to the bank, make a reservation at the zoo website; admission prices vary, but adult admission is generally around $25.
Now, let’s think about those maids a-milking. They do exist in the Bay Area, and one place they can be found is Sonoma County. Jennifer Bice is the owner-operator of a goat farm, Redwood Hill Farm-Capracopia in Sebastopol, and oversees the milking. You can go on a tour of the farm that includes cuddling — though not milking — the goats in the spring. Visit the website for prices.
As for the nine ladies dancing, the San Jose Dance Theater is going all out with its annual Nutcracker Suite offering this year. Needless to say, numerous ladies will be floating en pointe across the stage in the production, which is ongoing through December 19. Tickets are on sale at the website.
Leaps and bounds
While you’ll need to motor over to San Jose to see the ladies dancing, when it comes to those lords a-leaping, it’s definitely possible to arrange a home visit.
Jugglers on unicycles, magicians, Marilyn Monroe impersonators and all manner of performers — including lords a-leaping — will show up at a party or event courtesy of Celebrity Gems, a Castro Valley company.
First, the setup — “Sing the 12 Days of Christmas, and voila, in comes the character,” said Stan Heimowitz, owner of the company, which has been around for decades. Prices for the service vary.
Or, instead of a leaping lord, go for a leaping lemur. If there’s one thing those cute little critters can do, it’s leap. Let’s face it: Lemur leaping puts any similar efforts on the part of a lord, no matter how lissom or limber, to shame. And you can see them (the lemurs, that is) in person at Safari West, a 400-acre African-themed Santa Rosa wildlife preserve.
Prices vary, but adults can tour Safari West for around $93-$103 apiece and the park is open Christmas Eve, though closed on Christmas Day.
If you’re looking for a piper piping, Champion Bagpiper Fred Payne of San Pablo will be happy to perform for your event for a fee. He has performed marches, jigs, reels and hornpipes starting at 5 a.m. for runners competing in Marin County’s Miwok ultramarathon, so challenging assignments obviously don’t daunt him.
Anyone who has witnessed taiko drummers slamming the daylights out of their drums has a good idea of the thunder nine such drummers drumming could create. San Jose Taiko, founded in 1973, is only one example of the Bay Area venues offering performances and classes in this Japanese percussion art.
With regard to the “partridge in a pear tree,” pear trees can be obtained from the storied Berkeley Horticultural Nursery aka “Berkeley Hort” for around $40-$46, though they won’t be in stock for another three weeks or so.
The partridge, however, is elusive. The best idea might be to take a stroll at Partridge Knolls Mini-Park in Novato. Those who have hiked Golden Gate Park, walked around Lake Merritt, driven to Sonoma County and otherwise engaged with the other 11 ideas in this story might be too worn out at this point to interact with a partridge anyway. Happy Holidays!