Posted by on Dec 25, 2010 in Interesting Facts | 2 comments

For the first fact of Christmas, I bring you a partridge in a pear tree. That’s how the song goes, but it seems that the pear tree shouldn’t actually be there. Partridges are a bird rarely seen in trees, and a pear tree wouldn’t be a great gift in the middle of winter, being completely barren of leaves or fruit.

The whole thing is most likely a language misunderstanding. The song of the Twelve Days of Christmas seems to be of French origin. A partridge, in french, is une perdrix. Une perdrix – a pear tree. An easy mistake for an anglophone.

So let’s talk partridges. Actually, the french perdrix has its origins in Greek mythology. A man named Perdix was a young innovative inventor. For example, he was walking along the beach and saw a spine of a fish. Making similar notches in a piece of iron led to the invention of the saw. (or so the myth goes) Daedalus, Perdix’s teacher, was so jealous one day he took the opportunity to shove Perdix off a tall tower. As he fell, the gods took mercy on the ingenious Perdix and turned him into a bird. But, after such a traumatic experience, a bird that was afraid of heights and lived its life on the ground. Such is the story of the first partridge. One genus of partridges is indeed named Perdix, which contains the common Grey Partridge of North America.

Partridges are smaller than pheasants, and larger than quails. Varieties are found in most all parts of the world, as they have been introduced to new regions as a tasty treat. They themselves, being ground dwellers, dine on seeds, vegetation, and insects. They have strong beaks for digging up those tasty morsels.

In prehistoric times, partridges were a popular dish for Neanderthals and Cro-Magnum humans going back at least 35,000 years.

Happy Christmas to you all, and watch for tomorrow’s article in the Twelve Facts of Christmas.