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Tangram Christmas Art: The 12 Tangrams of Christmas

(Jump to the Nativity Set by clicking here, or see how this display was made by clicking here.)

From November 15 - December 29, 2012, there was a Christmas art display at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City, Utah. The annual event is the "Trees of Diversity" and included Christmas trees decorated in themes from around the world. A portion of that display included two sets of Christmas-themed tangrams. The one set depicted individuals from the Nativity. The other set displayed images from the old song, "The 12 Days of Christmas."

Each tangram image used in these displays was designed specifically for this art project (although it turns out others have designed similar camels). The tangrams were made of colored foam ranging from 1/8" to 1/4" thick. The plaques on which the tangrams were mounted are walnut that was cut and shaped in Bartlesville, Oklahoma for this project. Each plaque was custom built for the tangram image that it would house.

The Tangram Shape
Each of the images in this Nativity display is made of the same 7 shapes found in this tangram image. Tangrams are intended to use each of the 7 shapes, no more and no less, and they are not to overlap. The images include 2 large triangles, 2 small triangels, 1 medium-sized triangle, 1 square, and 1 parallelogram.
The Tangram Shapes

The Tangram 12 Days of Christmas Set

The following are brief notes on the 12 Days of Christmas trangram set.

The 12 Days of Christmas

It seems like the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," has been around forever. Well, for you and me, it has been. It's a song with a history so old that scholars can't agree on when it was written, by whom, or even in which country it originated. Was it France, because of the French Hens? Or, was it England, which seems to have the oldest known printing of the song, from 1780?

The items named in the verses have changed somewhat over the centuries, but it seems there have always been 12 items. Contrary to what many believe, the "12 Days" it refers to are not the 12 days leading up to Christmas, but the 12 days from Christmas Day until January 5th, when tradition has it the Wise Men arrived bearing gifts for the Christ child.

The gifts in the song are odd, to say the least. Many have supposed that they are symbolic of other, more useful items that were valued in olden times, such as the "Maids a Milking" representing dairy products produced on farms and critical for sustaining a good life. Beginning around 1979, speculation arose that the items may actually represent religious items, such as Jesus Christ being the Partridge, and the 10 Commandments being the 10 Lords a Leaping. Whether or not these guesses are accurate, one thing is certain, the 12 Days of Christmas will be with us for many years to come. This set of tangrams celebrates those days with some quirky, new tangrams.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to see information about the costs of the gifts in the "12 Days of Christmas" song if someone were to actually buy them.

The 12 Days of Christmas Display - Rough Layout
This shows all of the images from the 12 Days of Christmas (or, 12 Tangrams of Christmas). They are all shown individually below, with what seems to be the general consensus of the religious symbolism for each one. (Even though the religious symbolism seems to have been established in recent years. It's still interesting to see what people are saying they represent, because surely no one ever literally bought their true love a partridge in a pear tree, right?)

Tangram 12 Days of Christmas Display

1 Partridge in a Pear Tree
Symbolism: Christ on the cross
Tangram Partridge in a Pear Tree

2 Turtle Doves
Symbolism: The Old and New Testaments
Also, after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph sacrificed a pair of turtle doves in accordance with the Law of Moses. (Luke 2:22-24)
Tangram Two Turtle Doves

3 French Hens
Symbolism: Either Faith, Hope and Charity, or the 3 Wise Men
Tangram Three French Hens

4 Calling Birds
Symbolism: The Four Gospels
Tangram Four Calling Birds

5 Golden Rings
Symbolism: The Pentateuch, also known as the first 5 books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
Tangram Five Golden Rings

6 Geese a-Laying
Symbolism: Six days of Creation
Tangram Six Geese a-Laying

7 Swans a-Swimming
Symbolism: 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit
Tangram Seven Swans a-Swimming

8 Maids a-Milking
Symbolism: The eight Beatitudes
Tangram Eight Maids a-Milking

9 Ladies Dancing
Symbolism: Fruits of the Spirit
Tangram Nine Ladies Dancing

10 Lords a-Leaping
Symbolism: The 10 Commandments
Tangram Ten Lords a-Leaping

11 Pipers Piping
Symbolism: The 11 Faithful Apostles
Tangram Eleven Pipers Piping

12 Drummers Drumming
Symbolism: Points of the Apostle's Creed
Tangram Twelve Drummers Drumming

See How It's Made

To see how this tangram art was made, click here.

How to Make Tangram Art

More Tangram Fun

If you would like to see a Tangram Pack that has a puzzle and these 12 Days of Christmas images included in it, you can get to it by clicking here.
Solutions to 12 Days of Christmas Tangram Fury Tangram Pack

If you would like to see a set of Tangram Christmas Cards, based on these images, you can get to it by clicking here. Solutions to 12 Days of Christmas Tangram Fury Tangram Pack

The High Cost of Gift-Giving

In 2011, it was estimated that these literal gifts or services would cost $24,263.18. In 2012, PNC Financial Services Group Inc. estimated that one of each set of items would cost slightly more at $24,431. If each item were bought each time it's mentioned in all 12 verses of the song, it would require purchasing 364 items overall at a total cost in 2012 of $107,300. It is assumed that the human items of milking, dancing, leaping, piping and drumming are on a services or rental basis and it's per performance.

The breakdown in costs per item would be:

• 1 Partridge = $15
• 1 Pear Tree = $190
• 2 Turtle Doves = $125
• 3 French Hens = $165
• 4 Calling Birds = $519
• 5 Golden Rings = $750 (depending on the ring...)
• 6 Geese a-Laying = $210 (How do you make sure it's laying at the moment it's given??)
• 7 Swans a-Swimming = $7,000 (Plus, whatever they're swimming in when given...)
• 8 Maids a-Milking = $58 (Not sure what the cows would cost.)
• 9 Ladies Dancing = $6,294
• 10 Lords a-Leaping = $4,767
• 11 Pipers Piping = $2,562
• 12 Drummers Drumming = $2,776

In the end, it seems like this would make for a very noisy house - not to mention a big mess! I anticipate that by the end of the first week of gift-giving the neighbors would be in a bit of an uproar, too. Maybe they'd have to share some of those golden rings to calm everyone down.