Who doesn’t love Christmastime? The twinkling lights, the cozy sweaters, the food and beverages that no one consumes other than this time of year (I’m looking at you, egg nog). Obviously, there’s a smattering of people out there who loathe Christmas, but everyone – and I mean everyone – has gotten a Christmas song stuck in their head a time or two in their lifetime. We get so used to the same songs every December that we can fail to notice how disturbing some of them are.
I’m not talking about the old songs that take liberties with the Christmas nativity story (the magi likely didn’t see Jesus until he was a toddler and there’s no biblical mention of how many of them were there, even though they bore three gifts…for example), nor do I want to get into the off-color nature of modern Christmas songs, one of which uses the image of a Christmas tree as innuendo for female genitalia. I’m talking about classic Christmas songs we hum at our office desks and bob our heads to in the car. While accompanied by cheery, bouncy music, some of these songs slip in odd or dark messages.
Here are what I consider to be the top six most screwed-up classic Christmas songs:
6. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – This song in its entirety isn’t problematic, it’s just one line: “There’ll be scary ghost stories.” What kind of Christmas party is Andy Williams going to? Did he get stuck in a Tim Burton movie and end up in Halloweentown? Did he think he was about to engage in some mistletoeing and jingle belling, when suddenly he realized it was ghost story time? If not, with what attitude does his family read the biblical book of Luke or Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? Who wants to be scared on Christmas?
5. Holly Jolly Christmas – Like No. 6, this song only has one line that seems out of place: “Oh ho, the mistletoe hung where you can see/Somebody waits for you/kiss her once for me.” Why is the protagonist of the song sending someone else to kiss a girl he wants to kiss? Upon closer inspection, though, the girl is waiting for the surrogate kisser, not the protagonist, which could mean there’s some PG-rated holiday threesome about to happen and the kiss under the mistletoe is the sign that the rendezvous is still on. All kinds of weird happening here.
4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – We all adore the claymation TV special, and next to “Jingle Bells,” this is probably kids’ favorite Christmas song. However, the message this song sends is anything but Christmas spirity. Okay, we’ve got Rudolph, a reindeer who is different from everybody else (but aren’t we all?). The other reindeer mercilessly taunt him for his unique talent and ostracize him. After Santa comes along (in his underwear, if you add the asides when you sing the song) and offers Rudolph a job of a lifetime, we’re all happy for Rudolph and his newfound success. Moral of the story: if you don’t look like other people think you should, the only way they’ll accept you is if you do something extraordinary, like saving the world, then they’re probably all still talking about you behind your back, resenting the fact that you got that coveted promotion with virtually no experience on your resume, and are waiting for the boss to retire so they don’t have to pretend to like you anymore.
3. Santa Baby – If there was ever a song that celebrated the very materialism that other Christmas songs discourage, it’s this one. Not only that, but the protagonist (anti-hero might be a better term) is one of the pushiest, most selfish people to ever be crafted in a song. The woman in the song wants her boyfriend to reward her for not cheating on him all year, as if staying true to your significant other for 12 months is an Olympic accomplishment. After she asks for a fur coat, a car, a yacht (which she specifically claims is not a lot), a platinum mine, a duplex, an undetermined amount of blank checks and enough items from Tiffany to decorate a Christmas tree, she wants a marriage proposal. The song ends with that request, but I hope her beau was long gone by that point, because being trapped in matrimony with this lady would be a fate worse than death. She doesn’t want a Santa Baby. She wants a Sugar Daddy.
2. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – The basis for this song is a child who believes he has caught his mother in an act of adultery. What kind of sadistic child delights in his mother’s infidelity and thinks it would have been funny if his dad had seen? The implication seems to be that it’s actually the child’s father dressed as Santa rather than a home-wrecker locking lips with Mommy, but then that means that this kid has caught his parents in the middle of some kind of role playing, which is equally as disruptive to the wholesome holiday atmosphere.
1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Or as I like to call it, “The Date Rape Song.” I don’t know how people can in good conscience sing this song as a lighthearted Christmas duet for the family to listen to while sipping hot cocoa. What begins innocently enough as a young woman concerned about getting home to her loving parents, ends with a snake of a man slipping her a roofie (“Say, what’s in this drink?”) in an effort to make her compromise a moral decision she has made. Worst. Christmas. Song. Ever. I’m almost positive Meat Loaf cleaned up the lyrics, took away the identifying season and made it into “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.”
So there you have it, some of the most screwed-up beloved Christmas songs we’ve all been chirping along to for years.
In all seriousness, I hope you all have a merry Christmas. I won’t be posting next week because I’ll be spending Christmas Eve with my boyfriend’s awesome family and then Christmas with my cool cat parents, and I hope you get to spend some time with your loved ones.
Even if you’re not a Christian and don’t view Christmas as the celebration of Christ, my prayer for you is that you can hear the songs that tell of His birth and hear that the world is a brighter place because of His arrival. The world didn’t become perfect after Jesus was born, but He brought us each a hope that is ours for the taking, even in our imperfection and the world’s wars, shootings, rapings, starvations, droughts, suffering and death. Joy to the world, the Lord is come…
Merry Christmas, everybody.