12 Days of Christmas Lyrics
Screengrab via YouTube

Jeff Foxworthy's 'Redneck 12 Days of Christmas' + NFL Parodies of a Holiday Classic

Musical listicle "12 Days of Christmas" has been ripe for country-inspired parodies a couple of times since 1980, from Elliot, Walter and Bennett's odes to NFL teams to a knee-slapper from the peak of Jeff Foxworthy's popularity.

Before revisiting those novelty tracks, consider the origin of a holiday standard.

A Game of Memory and Forfeits

The original "12 Days of Christmas" dates back to at least a 1780 children's book titled Mirth With-out Mischief. Per Vox, the song is believed to be French in origin, and its list format might've made it part of a "memory and forfeits" game where singers "tested their recall of the lyrics and had to award their opponents a 'forfeit' — a kiss or a favor of some kind — if they made a mistake."

Twelve represents the days between Christmas and the Epiphany, an old Christian holiday held on Jan. 6 to celebrate when the New Testament's Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem.

English composer Frederic Austin wrote the most common arrangement of the song by 1909. His "Twelve Days of Christmas" sheet music introduced a caroler's favorite: the drawn-out delivery of "five golden rings."

Lyrics have varied over time and in different countries. For most Americans, the final verse goes:

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 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 (or Colly Birds, in the Old English tradition)
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

A rumor spread in the '90s that the lyrics are a "secret code" of sorts which allowed Catholics to pass their faith down to their children during the Reformation in England, but the website Snopes has since dismissed those claims.

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For nearly 40 years, PNC Bank has calculated a Christmas Price Index to show how much these 12 gifts would cost in modern times. For 2020, the total for booking a drum line, buying five gold rings and securing both the partridge and the pear tree would set you back $16,168.14.

The 12 Days of a Cleveland Brown Christmas

Houston, Texas bar band Elliot, Walter and Bennett (Jerrel Elliott, Clark Walter and Gerald Bennett) recorded at least 10 different send-ups of the Christmas carol with lyrics about NFL franchises' 1980 rosters.

For example, the Cleveland Browns version thanks the franchise's owner at the time, Art Modell, for future Los Angeles Raider Lyle Alzado and Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome. It's no "Bernie, Bernie," but if you enjoy a good parody song, you'll crack a smile.

Other teams with their own "12 Days of Christmas" include the Falcons, Cowboys, Patriots, Eagles and Rams.

Walter shares songwriting credit with Mack and Sandra Hayes. A Houston Oilers (the future Tennessee Titans) version appears on Mack Hayes' 1980 album of Oilers-themed songs.

Ten of Copenhagen

In 1996, Foxworthy built on the fame of his redneck jokes with "Redneck 12 Days of Christmas," a highlight of his 1996 stocking stuffer Crank It Up— The Music Album.

Foxworthy wrote the Top 20 country hit with fellow comedian Tim Wilson. Together, they came up with a list of presents that, aside from probation, sound way more interesting than a bunch of dang birds:

Twelve Pack a Bud
Eleven wrestling tickets
Ten of Copenhagen
Nine years probation
Eight table dancers
Seven packs of Red Man
Six cans of spam
Five flannel Shirts
Four big mud tires
Three shot gun shells
Two hunting dogs
And some parts to a Mustang G.T.


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