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In bad news for true loves, inflation is hitting the 12 Days of Christmas

French hen prices fluttered up 25% this year, thanks in part to costly bird feed and the growing popularity of backyard farming.
Bloodlinewolf/Getty Images
French hen prices fluttered up 25% this year, thanks in part to costly bird feed and the growing popularity of backyard farming.

Inflation is not taking a holiday this year. Rising prices have been one of the central stories of 2022. And this season of gift-giving is no exception.

Buying a partridge, a pear tree, and all the other items in the 12 Days of Christmas would cost an estimated $45,523.27 this year thanks to inflation — an increase of 10.5% from a year ago, according to the annual "Christmas Price Index" compiled by PNC Bank.

That's the third largest jump since the bank started tracking the prices nearly four decades ago.

"True love is really going to have to shell it out this year," said Amanda Agati, chief investment officer at PNC. "Clearly, our specialty gift basket of goods and services is not well insulated from some of the trends that the broader economy is experiencing."

Turtle doves and French hens have both seen double-digit price increases, Agati said. Blame, in part, the rising cost of bird feed as well as the growing popularity of backyard farming.

Golden rings are up more than a third, 39%. Many people seek shelter in precious metals when overall inflation is high.

This year's Christmas Price Index outpaced the Consumer Price Index — the official inflation yardstick compiled by the Labor Department — which was 7.1% in November.

Costly services are also driving both measures higher. In the case of the Christmas Price Index, that includes dancing ladies, piping pipers, and especially leaping lords. The lords' price-tag — which is based on salaries at the Philadelphia Ballet — leapt 24% this year.

"There's no question services inflation is higher than goods inflation in the PNC Christmas Index," Agati said. "But that's what we're seeing in the broader economy."

Inflation watchdogs at the Federal Reserve are also worried about the rising price of services, even as the cost of goods like used cars starts to come down. Service prices are largely driven by rising wages, and as a result they tend to be hard to reverse.

Interest rates are also climbing this year, as the Fed tries to crack down on inflation. So people who put their holiday purchases on a credit cards may end up paying even more.

Not everything in the Christmas song has gotten more expensive.

The price of seven swans a swimming was unchanged in 2022. Swan prices have been treading water for the last three years, possibly a sign of waning consumer demand.

"I'm not sure what to do with seven swans," Agati said. "I wouldn't know how to take care of them."

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Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.