Last year, for his Christmas episode, Jimmy Fallon sang “12 Days of Christmas” with the Muppets (and the Roots):
The “original” version featured John Denver and appeared on the album A Christmas Together and on the 1979 TV special A Christmas Together with John Denver and The Muppets — which does not appear to be available on DVD. Sigh.
I miss Jim Henson’s voice, of course, but I must admit that I like Pepe the Prawn and Rizzo the Rat.
The song has a number of variations:
It has been suggested by a number of sources over the years that the pear tree is in fact supposed to be perdrix, French for partridge and pronounced per-dree, and was simply copied down incorrectly when the oral version of the game was transcribed. The original line would have been: “A partridge, une perdrix.”
Some misinterpretations have crept into the English-language version over the years. The fourth day’s gift is often stated as four calling birds but originally was four colly birds, using another word for a blackbird.
The fifth day’s gift of gold rings refers not to jewellery but to ring-necked birds such as the ring-necked pheasant. When these errors are corrected, the pattern of the first seven gifts all being birds is restored. There is a version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” that is still sung in Sussex in which the four colly birds are replaced by canaries.
A minor variant includes the singing of “golden” rather than “gold” rings, to avoid having to stretch “gold” into two syllables (“go-old”).