Christmas Songs

It’s a peculiar phenomenon.  No other holiday or time of year has received as much attention from the music industry in this part of the world.  That could be a direct result of Christmas being the most commercialized and most profitable holiday in the country, but as to the quality of the songs themselves, they don’t deserve any blanket generalizations.  Some are annoying, some are okay, and some are quite nice, although why they seem so heavily stuck in the mid-twentieth century is a question for someone else.

However, in seeking to stir up winter merriment, some of them become unintentionally laughable or unpleasant.  In no particular order, here are a few Christmas lyrics that are more troubling than uplifting, to put you in that good ol’ critical thinking and melancholy disillusionment kind of mood for the holidays.

“Do You Hear What I Hear”

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king:

Do you know what I know, in your palace wall, mighty king?

Do you know what I know?

A child, a child, shivers in the cold.

Let us bring him silver and gold.

A baby is freezing, so let’s bring him precious metals. 

You do know that’s not going to help, right? 

The real reason for the extravagant gifts is this particular child’s identity, but that’s never specified.  All the explanation that the boy gives is that the child is shivering.  Thus, he thinks bringing silver and gold would be a good idea, despite that those would be of no practical use to a shivering baby at this time.  How does a shepherd boy get an audience with the king, anyway?

“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

You know the story.  Rudolph is an outcast, mocked and excluded for his abnormality.

All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.

They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.

One day, his abnormality turns out to be useful, and Rudolph saves the day.

Then how the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll go down in history!

Heaps of adoration must be better than getting picked on, but Rudolph still doesn’t have any real friends.  All the other reindeer are just a bunch of brown nosers.

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas”

This song is about promising to the speaker’s family that he will return to them before the end of the Gregorian year.  The lyrics emphasize the faithfulness and reliability of the speaker and suggest that the family make preparations for his arrival.

I’ll be home for Christmas.  You can count on me.

Please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree.

Alright, sounds good… although perhaps you should reevaluate your expectations if you think your family can control the weather.  They don’t get to decide whether there will be any snow waiting for you.  That is, unless you mean the fake kind.

Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light beams.

I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.

Now wait a minute.  If you’re telling these people to expect you, only do so if you plan to be able to honor that commitment.  “In my dreams” is a cheap way to back out of a promise you never should have made.  Shame on you.

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Soon the bells will start

and the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing…

We’ll need a physicist to check up on this, but it might be possible for signing to cause a very small bell to ring if the singing is loud enough and the bell is within a close enough proximity, considering that sound is a—

…right within your heart.

No.  No amount of singing “within your heart” will make bells ring.  Your heartsong is not telekinetic.  Can’t songs fashioned to make people happy do so by means other than lying to them?

“Winter Wonderland”

In the meadow we can build a snowman and pretend that he’s a circus clown.

We’ll have lots of fun with mister snowman… until the other kids knock him down.

Now that’s more realistic—heartless minors destroying the creations of others—but isn’t this supposed to be a happy song?  The lack of justice here is upsetting. 

From “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, celebrating the use of humans as gifts, to “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”, normalizing stalker activity, Christmas songs show us that the customs and traditions of our culture don’t always fall in line with our professed beliefs.  It can be rather jarring the first time you notice details like these in something as cherry and seemingly-innocent as a Christmas song.  But man are they catchy.

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