top of page

12 Days of Christmas

Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesday group had a good holiday week turnout of 26 walkers and three K-9 best friends at the Exedra on a rain-threatening morning for our final 2023 walk this Wednesday.

As a holiday tradition, some residents of Highland, Caperton, and Sheridan Avenues display the items of the 12 Days of Christmas carol in their windows or entryways. They keep them up from December 1st through January 6th for Epiphany, or Three Kings' Day. Christina Miller lives in one of those houses and thought we would enjoy seeing them. Additionally, Piedmont Community Church minister Dottie Hutch said she could give us a tour of the church after we saw the homes, and architect Will Adams would tell us about its Albert Farr design.

It was shared that 12 Days of Christmas is an English Christmas carol, but it might have also been a catechism song for young Catholics during the 16th through early 19th Centuries. During this period Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone may have written this carol with two levels of meaning. One is the surface meaning, but the other might have been known only to Church members. Each gift in the carol may have been a code for a Catholic religious concept which the children could remember.

There had been lots of news lately about inflation. The group was told PNC Bank calculated that the prices of the gifts in the Twelve Days of Christmas had risen by 2.65% this year to $46,729.86. This was after a 10.5% increase in 2022. The prices are affected by labor costs for personal services, like those of lords, pipers, and drummers. PNC says a partridge in a pear tree goes for $319.18, two turtle doves are $750, three French hens are $330, four calling birds are $599.96, five golden rings are $1,245 (must be gold plated), six geese a laying are $780, seven swans a swimming are $13,125, eight maids a milking are only $58, nine ladies dancing are $8,308.12, ten lords a leaping are the most expensive at $14,539.20, eleven pipers piping are $3,207.38, and twelve drummers drumming are $3,468.02. PNC says if you're buying all 12 gifts online, it may cost you more, $52,024.03.

For the food items we thought we should go to Grocery Outlet. Christina started us off going through Piedmont Park, passing the Tea House, emerging on Highland Avenue, and looking for their first 12 Days of Christmas house. We soon found a partridge in a sparkling pear tree in a

front window. We continued on, finding two turtle doves, three French hens (drawn by the house's three children), four calling birds, and five golden rings. We turned up Caperton Avenue finding six geese a-laying and ten lords a-leaping. We arrived at Sheridan Avenue searching for eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming. Doubling back towards Highland, we found them

in more windows.

The morning's next stop was the Piedmont Community Church where Dottie H was going to give us another tour. We posed on the church's front steps for the attached photo, and Dottie led us around to an entrance of the church's Christian Education building. Dottie shared some church history there. The Piedmont Sunday School was started in 1900 and met occasionally in various homes until the San Francisco earthquake in April 1906. It moved soon after to the Merriam home's carriage house on Hillside Avenue. Enrollment grew and the Sunday School Association was formed. In 1907 Reverend Mowbray led the Sunday school as an interdenominational project,

and Mowbray Hall was built in 1908 and 09 on Vista Avenue, opposite Piedmont's Albert Farr-designed City Hall. The Masons acquired Mowbray Hall in 1912, and used it until the mid-1950s when it was razed to extend the new Havens School playground.

In 1910 the Church of Piedmont was organized and in April 1912 the Sunday School Association united with the Church of Piedmont to become the Piedmont Community Church. Piedmont philanthropist Wallace Alexander and his wife Mary made it possible for the new church to acquire 1.5 acres in November 1913. Albert Farr also designed the church building. Its ground breaking was in 1916 and the church was dedicated on January 6, 1918. Planning for the Christian Education Building started in 1947. It housed the Sunday school and youth meeting rooms, and was dedicated in September 1949. Will Adams asked us to note the differences in the architectural styles of the original and later building.

Dottie took us through the Guild Parlor, Guild Hall, and kitchen to the church's lovely courtyard and fountain. Will noted Farr's California Mission style, with its simplified execution that limited the construction expense, and kept the design compatible with other important buildings in Piedmont's center. We entered the sanctuary and Will pointed out the impressive ceiling

trellises. The downward slope from the back to the front also provides better visibility of the service. The pipe organ has 3,000 pipes, and the woodwork throughout is beautiful.

Our tours were completed. It was time for us to wrap up 2023 and get home before some afternoon rain. We appreciated the Highland, Caperton and Sheridan homeowners' gifts that Christina Miller had shared, our visit with Dottie Hutch to the Piedmont Community Church, and a great year of walking and being together.


bottom of page