"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was first printed in an English children's book in 1780, but its origins are probably much older than that.
The carol likely began as a children's game during the celebration of Twelfth Night, quite literally the 12th day of traditional Christmas celebrations.
Each child would take a turn singing a line, and if they forgot one, they'd either be out or have to pay a small penalty like a piece of candy or a coin.
By the way, today the total cost of twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping, nine Ladies Dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree would be more than $34,000.
Click on the player below to listen to each entry in the series "The Forgotten History of Our Favorite Christmas Carols."