Corporatization of Christmas

Memo to: Santa Claus North Pole Enterprises Inc.

From: Scrooge and Marley Consulting.

Re: Reducing the cost of the 12 Days of Christmas

Dear Nick: Our team of penny-pinching misers and shivering overworked clerks have carefully examined the PNC Financial Services Group report on the growing cost of a full-service, 12-day Christmas with all the trimmings from 12 drummers to a partridge.

As you know, PNC calculated the cost at $21,465.56, up $385.46 over last year, a significant concern for those preferring an arguably excessively traditional Christmas in the ongoing recession.

We regret to inform you, first, that PNC's figures dramatically understate the problem.

They costed acquisition of, in total, 12 drummers, 9 ladies, 5 rings and on down to that pesky partridge and its arboreal accessory (the latter accounts for 93.7 per cent of the price, incidentally; can you just use a hatstand?).

But the fine print in the carol requires that the true love be given a partridge and tree every day, 3 French hens on 10 occasions, 10 lords a-leaping three times and so on.

That the true love bags 40 rings rather than five is a significant issue given the 42.9 per cent rise in gold prices since 2008.

And as Walt Kelly of Pogo fame calculated long ago, the resulting chaotic cackling hissing 364-item mess would require a barn, warehouse or other large storage space, another cost PNC omits.

Our second finding, on various superficially appealing radical options, is also discouraging.

One of our principals suggested cancelling Christmas entirely but further analysis revealed massive hidden fuel and wood costs. (The exact text of his proposal was "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.")

Our legal department also warns of potentially enormous attorney's fees, and you cannot count on the contemporary celebrant having "his own pudding" even if he is in all other respects a prize idiot.

Bob Cratchitt feels that large-scale immersion of unduly perky individuals in lethally hyperthermic dessert foods conflicts with traditional Santa branding efforts while the late Mr. Marley notes the further expense of large cooking vessels.

Thus we cannot recommend this approach.

Nor can we endorse more careful selection of romantic partners, or greater sensitivity to their gift-related hints, to enable swains to eliminate everything on the list except the gold rings.

The modern girl's indifference to a flock of 36 calling birds is liable to be offset, unpredictably, by a taste for such expensive tokens of affection as an unlimited-minutes calling plan.

If, Santa, you put more competitive cell phone rates in Canadian stockings, it might reduce the volume of Dec. 26 text messages beginning "Hey, Fatso" but it is impossible reliably to quantify the financial implications of such an approach.

Now the good news. The PNC survey finds the price of turtle doves is down due to scientific breeding.

And Mr. Scrooge suggests that as people eat geese (after they have laid, so as not to forgo the economic benefits of free eggs) they could surely add doves, hens, "calling birds" (whatever those are) and even swans to the menu although rumour has it the latter are a bit chewy. Perhaps with pear sauce?

This approach offers substantial reductions in the grocery bill for costly meat proteins.

Further, if the maids have access to cows as the odd phrase "a-milking" seems to imply, we recommend the sale of dairy products to offset their $7.25 hourly wage. Bulk milk is not lucrative especially given the need for quotas; we prefer a speciality cheese.

(And must they milk cows? The close identification of reindeer with the Santa brand strongly suggests reindeer brie, or goose-egg-and-reindeer-cheese quiches.)

Having the ladies milk when not dancing is also attractive to reduce labour costs.

Better yet, get the maids to dance; the ladies cost over 10 times as much per hour.

Similarly, have the drummers leap in their spare time. This will not only reduce the racket, but as the "lords a-leaping" are thought to have been morris dancers anything improvised by the percussion section will necessarily render the overall effect marginally less appalling.

We also wonder if it is possible to milk one-handed, so the maids could beat drums with the other, and leap on their breaks.

Are the 22 pipers "piping" on pan flutes or something else tasteful? Try giving them bagpipes and everyone else will probably leave, reducing your hospitality and wage bills.

Despite our best efforts the total savings we are able to offer are not substantial. Favourable movement in commodity and labour markets are your best hope.

On the bright side, you're not on the hook for any myrrh.

Yours sincerely,


[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson