The other day I was at my daughter’s house admiring her Christmas tree. She said, “It’s a little uneven, but I love that! It’s so old fashioned!” It was one of those times I noticed how, though they are of course modern about many things, my kids appreciate some old time traditions as well. A lop-sided Christmas tree, yes. We used to search for ones flat on one side so they’d snug up to the wall. They don’t make ‘em like that any more, or at least they don’t seem to sell them. I thought about this—that Christmas in the country is just a little different than the 12 Christmases we sing about.

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … a lop-sided Christmas tree!” So then I thought –what next? – two somethings. Mittens. Remember how you would lose a mitten? Then you’d wear your second pair and lose one of those, too. After two or three rounds of this, your mother would just send you out in parts of pairs. “On the second day of Christmas… TWO mismatched mittens and a lopsided Christmas tree.” Right. Three? Well there will probably be more than that, but maybe not before Christmas—storms—oozy wet ones, even ice. “Three slushy storms! Two mismatched mittens!” Now we’re cooking with gas. Yeah, let’s go.

The fourth day—well, did you get an appointment to have your tires swapped before that big storm? Me neither. “Four balding tires!” Not romantic, but what is romantic about cows and geese in the original? On day five, the meter varies, which makes for more interest, but it is a little harder to form lyrics around. Long underwear sounds right, for both meter and meaning. “LOOOONG UN-DER-WEAR!” On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … a cold. Yeah, there’s the romance! On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – six rounds of sneezing.

Now you know the 12 days of Christmas extend after the 25th, right? So, really, it’s all downhill from here. Winter will look long and uninteresting and kind of a pain, really. But we might as sing about it. Complaining is so much more fun when set to music. “On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven pipes a-freezing” (and one hair dryer for thawing, but we’ve already done day one). Eight is for hours of shoveling, not just once, but for each major storm. Unless it’s an ice storm, which is impossible to shovel. Ice storms are monsters. “On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine miles of ice storm, eight hours a-shoveling” and so on. On the coldest days, it’s hard to type with cold fingers—it’s better with a laptop—you can find a relatively cozy corner. “Ten frozen fingers …” Getting a little plaintive here, but we mostly do when its cold and we have deadlines to meet, bills to pay and a foot of snow. Well, here we go – sing it!

“On the first day if Christmas, my true love gave to me A lop-sided Christmas tree. On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two mismatched mittens and a lop-sided Christmas tree…” You know how it goes. Until …

“On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me 12 snowy inches, 11 bills for paying, 10 frozen fingers, nine miles of ice storm, eight hours a-shoveling, seven pipes a-freezing, six rounds of sneezing. LOOONG UN-DER-WEAR! Four balding tires, three slushy storms, two mismatched mittens – and a LOP-SIDED CHRISTMAS TREE!”

Have a happy!