One of my favorite useless trivial things.

So on Christmas day, you get home from caroling (and having a tiny bit too much wassail) and you discover a gift waiting for you — a partridge in a pear tree.

You have no use for this. You decide to return it, but the store isn’t open on Christmas, so you’ll have to return it on the 26th.

The 26th arrives and you struggle to load the pear tree (complete with a remarkably docile partridge) into the back of your neighbor’s truck that he has graciously agreed to lend to you for this purpose. You return the gift and make your way home.

But when you get there, you have received two turtledoves — and a partridge in a pear tree.

It’s too late in the day now to return them, so you wait until the 27th. On the 27th your neighbor again lends you the truck. You load up the tree (and partridge), and you coax the two turtle doves into the cab with you. However, when you get to the store, you discover that their return policy only allows you to return one thing per day. (If you find this to be unreasonable, consider that if this is the point where the narrative loses credibility for you, you perhaps have not been paying sufficient attention.)

The turtle doves seem to be very much in love with one another, so you return the pear tree, making sure that partridge stays in it so that it will be a single return.

When you get home, you discover that you have been given three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

This could be a problem.

As the days go on, you receive all of the gifts from the song — and you are only able to return one per day.

On what date do you return the final gift, assuming it is not a Leap Year and the store is open every day (except Christmas, as previously mentioned)?

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2 Responses to One of my favorite useless trivial things.

  1. Lummox JR says:

    If each day’s gift can be returned as a set (e.g., both doves together), the final return will be 78 days after Christmas, which is March 13 in a normal year. If each bird, lord, lady, etc. has to be returned separately so that only items intrinsically paired can be returned together (e.g., a partridge and a pear tree, a maid and her cow/goat/sheep, a drummer and his drum), then the final return is 364 days after Christmas, which is to say Christmas Eve the following year. That’s a very long time to be saddled with so many birds and houseguests, whose number will have exceeded the maximum occupancy of your house many times over. Hopefully you have a spacious backyard, a very large barn, a friend who wants to start a drum corps, and a heated pool for all those swans.

    By this point, you’ll probably have found a different true love, because the one who sent you all these gifts is kind of insane. On the other hand, she’s obviously rich, so maybe you shouldn’t break up but you should definitely avoid signing a prenup.

  2. Br.Bill says:

    Of course, you may choose to keep all 40 of the gold(en) rings, which would mean the final return is 324 days after Christmas, November 14th.

    One could argue that all those itinerant musicians, dancers, athletes, and dairy workers could just be released from their contracts. Much easier than returning them. They’ll leave, and the drummers and the milkmaids will all hook up and create some future children of single parents.

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