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Cost of giving rings discordant tone during Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas tree decorations.

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Christmas costs a bit more in 2022 than it did in 2007.
Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The cost of putting on a Christmas spread and buying gifts for your true love has soared in recent years thanks to inflation.

If presents in the carol Twelve Days of Christmas were even on Santa’s list (eleven pipers piping, anyone?) they’re certainly a bit more pricey this year.

‘A partridge in a pear tree’

‘Tis the season for game birds hitting the menu and turkey is the flavour of the month – but spare a thought for partridges.

The partridge featured strongly in the 18th century carol, but is a rarity on New Zealand tables.

Fifteen years ago the birds were $15 each – fast-forward to 2022 and you’re looking at $75 a bird.

A partridge, not in a pear tree.

A partridge, not in a pear tree.
Photo: 123RF

Near Nelson, Brightwater Gamebirds farmer Phil Gibbs said they were sweet little things.

“They’re actually quite tame little birds. You walk into the pen and they move aside. They’re not as mad arse as pheasants.”

Gibbs said they are more easily startled in the wild.

“If you walk through long grass and there’s some partridges around, the explosion as they take off – which is vertically right in front of your feet – nearly stops your heart.”

Partridges are smaller than a pheasant and have a shorter, stubby tail. If you’re feeding a crowd, Gibbs said “one each would be easily done”.

But he sells very few of the birds, dealing mainly in fertilised eggs – of which he sells 10 dozen a week to shooting preserves around the country. Partridges lay from September to early in the new year.

If they are on the Christmas menu, Gibbs said it’s best to cook them long and slow.

“Like any game birds, they’re not soft like a chook – they’re a firmer animal, so slow roasting.”

The cost of meat has soared in recent years, but economist Brad Olsen, Infometrics chief executive, said the traditional barbecue or roast dinner is still easier on your pocket compared to a partridge.

“It sounds like a lot of effort to find a partridge, certainly if it’s in a pear tree. We’ve looked through the numbers and although Kiwis are often keen on the humble barbecue, looking at the likes of a roast dinner or a ham or a turkey certainly seems like a more convenient option.”

‘Five gold rings’

As for other gifts in The Twelve Days of Christmas, a gold ring could be a wise purchase.

Olsen said gold might’ve doubled in price over the past decade, but is unlikely to lose value.

“If they ever ran into trouble you could trade the gold ring and try to get yourself out of a sticky spot.”

‘Seven swans a-swimming’

The only swans gracing Christmas tables in 2022 are likely to be ceramic.

The going rate for a Crown Lynn swan on Trade Me is upwards of $500 – compared with $50 in 2007.

‘Eight maids a-milking’

A woman milking cows.

‘We don’t talk about milkmaids now.’
Photo: 123RF

Putting an ad out for a milkmaid will land you in a spot of bother these days.

Fifteen years ago you’d earn $120 a day in the milk shed.

An expert on the matter, Marlborough dairy farmer Evan White, said employment relations had come a long way.

“We don’t talk about milkmaids now, but if I had somebody milking the cows based on our farm the time it would take to get the cows milked morning and night, that’d be $220 based on the hours they work, paying above the minimum wage – and that might include Kiwisaver.”

Olsen said labour market forces could also be at play.

“Broadly speaking, I think also what you’re seeing is that the availability of milkmaids would be quite different these days given that we continue to hear about labour market shortages, and the challenges of finding people across the primary sector and on-farm.”

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