A few years ago I found a decorative bird at a discount store next to some large pears that were meant to be hung as Christmas ornaments. I scooped them up to use as props when singing “The 12 Days of Christmas”. That year I did several sing-a-longs with groups, and asked one guest to hold up the bird while other guests extended their arms, holding on dangling pear ornament in their fingers. It was a hit! We created pear trees and used cardboard signs to represent all the other characters in the song. Oh, I did buy 5 large key rings, interlocked them and spray-painted them gold. Those 5 Golden Rings were a hit too, especially with sight-impaired participants, who could feel the shapes and twirl the rings around for all to see.
This year I was determined to find more good props for The 12 Days of Christmas. In October I started looking for puppets and plush animals to fill each of the characters’ roles.
The two turtle doves were easy to find on amazon.com. They are the Mourning Doves by Audobon Plush and cost about $5 each. They even make cooing sounds when the magic button is pushed. Then came the Three French Hens. I found these on 50% off clearance sale for $12.63 each at www.costumecraze.com These are best used as puppets (raise them on hands) rather than hats, as men aren’t crazy about wearing chickens on their heads while singing holiday songs in public.
Next I found the Four Collie Birds. Many think the words are “Four Calling Birds”, but I learned by researching that these are actually 4 black birds, or ravens, called Collie Birds (think black as coal.) I found mini-Raven finger puppets at www.puppetjungle.com for $5.60 each. Usually I give them to four ladies, who can make them flutter all together at the right time in the song.
So now I had all the characters up to the Five Golden Rings. What to do about the rest of the verses? So I started looking online and found a wonderful artist in Australia who has provided all of the characters as printables. You can print them in black and white to color yourself, or you can print them in her wonderful artistically colored versions. She has given me permission to share her site with you here. Scroll down to the “Christmas” directory and you’ll find all the characters of the song. http://beccysplace.blogspot.com/2011/02/digital-design-index.html
My daughters went out and found some wooden tulips on dowels at Michael’s craft store for 26 cents each, and I used those to make stick puppets from Beccy’s art work.
I printed her gorgeous pictures onto card stock, reversing the images in Photoshop when necessary to make both sides of the puppet. I mounted them on foam core, and then onto the wooden tulips with two-sided craft tape. Then I added glittery bows made of tuille that I found on sale at Joanne’s Fabrics and Crafts.
The puppets have been so much fun! Here is a photo of the Glenaires chorale at their holiday show with all their props. When I get the video of their presentation, I’ll add it to this post.
A family who takes piano lessons from me also used the props with their brother playing the song. Here’s a video of “The Jingle Brothers and Grandma” doing The Twelve Days of Christmas!
Last week our church choir visited a convalescent hospital and had a hilarious time presenting this song. Some of the patients were able to sing with us and take part in the fun with the puppets. Families who love to sing could make puppets, adding every year until they had a full set. What a wonderful holiday tradition for children of all ages!