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The 12 Days of Christmas: Days one and two

PUBLISHED: 00:03 24 December 2018

Two turtle doves. Picture Paul King/BTO

Two turtle doves. Picture Paul King/BTO

my true love sent to me, a partridge in a pear tree; second day? Two turtle doves

And a partridge in a pear tree. Picture: Sonya DuncanAnd a partridge in a pear tree. Picture: Sonya Duncan

It is a Christmas classic, of course and there have been many mathematical calculations carried out to determine just how much livestock landed on the unnamed beloved’s doorstep over the course of the Twelve Days of Christmas, not to mention a totting up of the total cost... which runs into the tens of thousands even accounting for members of a nearby amateur theatre company joining in for free.

One of the most enduring images of Christmas is a partridge in a pear tree (see Christmas cards everywhere) and yet, what are you supposed to do with a pear tree in winter - no leaves, no pears. More of a stick, really.

As for partridges - do they roost in trees? The best information I have to hand is that this would be pretty unusual behaviour for partridges as they prefer to be on the ground.

When the first partridge in a pear tree arrives, one hopes the recipient is at home and it doesn’t get dropped over the garden gate or left with neighbours. The first task may well have to be enticing the partridge out of the pear tree. As it is delivered on December 25, the first day of Christmas, it will not be encouraged by the smell of roast bird coming from the kitchen. Recipes for roast partridge are available.

One partridge feeds one person, apparently, so the First Day of Christmas bird is probably safe until at least day two. On day two, the sender, who must be head over heels in love to the detriment of his or her common sense, sends two turtle doves plus another partridge in another pear tree. The first thing we need to be aware of is that the European turtle dove is a migratory species so over-wintering them on to them in East Anglia may be a problem as they normally head for southern Africa in the colder months. The new owner of the eventual 22 turtle doves may have to provide them with centrally-heated accommodation − which is not going to be cheap, though it may involve a lot of cheeps. Moreover, the aviary will require a lot of cleaning.

At this point, however, the unsuspecting objet d’amour will have only two partridges, two pear trees and two turtle doves and little idea of what is to come. By the end of the second day of Christmas, she (or he) will be trilling happily around the home, as will the turtle doves.

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