Friday, December 24, 2010

Overthinking Christmas Carols

Yesterday I heard that Christmas carol, Do You Hear What I Hear, and for perhaps the first time I noticed that the lyrics (referring to Jesus, of course) say,

"A child, a child shivers in the cold,
Let us bring him silver and gold"

This strikes me funny.  I suppose the point of that verse is, "there's a baby over there, let's go pay our respects" but to me the way they phrase it sounds like, "Oh my god, there's a cold baby over there!  Let's warm him up...with this pile of metal!"  I picture the Three Wise Men tenderly stacking gold bricks on top of baby Jesus until he's completely buried.  Or maybe they give him some silver and gold coins to buy a blanket with...seems to me it'd be more effective to give Mary or Joseph that money, though.  A newborn baby can't even support the weight of his own head - you can't expect him to pop into town and purchase supplies.  It's generally expected that the parents will take care of that.

Speaking of weird carols, I remember hearing the song I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus when I was a little kid and being horrified by it - this kid is witnessing his mom cheating on his dad!  And on Christmas, too!  Plus, don't most Christmas specials allude to a Mrs. Claus?  So this illicit kiss has the potential to ruin the lives of at least three people: the kid who witnessed it, the kid's dad, and Mrs. Claus.  What an appalling song.  Why would anyone consider it festive?  I was genuinely upset.

I expressed my concerns to my mom, and she explained to me that it's actually tongue-in-cheek: the kid's dad had dressed up like Santa to give the kid a thrill and simply hadn't taken the costume off yet. It was actually the kid's parents making out.  Cute, right?

Well, not really.  The lyrics are from the point of view of a child who genuinely thinks his costumed father is Santa Claus.  The child truly believes he's witnessing infidelity, although he seems oddly calm about it:

"Oh, what a laugh it would have been
if Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night"

Either this kid is retarded, his parents are swingers, or the songwriter has no fucking clue how a child's mind works.  I hate this song.

Another song whose lyrics bug me (this is not technically a Christmas song, but is nonetheless played during the holiday season): Baby It's Cold Outside.  This is a duet between a woman and a man: she's trying to make polite excuses to leave his house and he's pushing her to stay and have sex with him.  Possibly the woman wants to stay but is making a token objection so as not to look like a slut (part of her bit of the song goes "I ought to say no, no, no, least I'm gonna say that I tried"); possibly the man is just a big ol' date rapist (most of his lines are kind of creepy, and at one point the woman says, "Say, what's in this drink?" which...can't possibly be a good sign).

Y'know what takes the song from icky to awesome, though?  Reversing the genders and adding Muppets!

Y'know, I can also think of a few non-Christmas songs that are creepy or stupid or horrible and nobody else seems to notice.  I'll have to make more posts like this one in the future.


  1. Baby, It's Cold Outside is my favourite festive song because it's the only one about gettin' some. I've always viewed it more as a playful back-and-forth seduction than a straight-up date rape. This is the first year I'd heard the other opinion to this, and it kind of shocked me.

  2. Wow I never looked at these songs in this way. Thanks for the insights!

  3. I've always viewed it more as a playful back-and-forth seduction...

    At the very least, this song reminds me of the whole Madonna/whore dichotomy (a woman who wants to have sex pretending she doesn't so the man will respect her) and it makes me depressed. I guess if I'd written the song, it'd be:

    "I really can't stay/baby it's cold outside
    I've got to go away/baby it's cold outside errands can wait/baby it's...huh?

    But I suppose that lacks a certain subtlety.

    Oh! I'm gonna pretend that the song is about a loving, established couple who are roleplaying the suave seductor/skittish ingenue thing to add a spark to their boudoir activities. That's totally hot and gets around my feminist issues re: the song.

    Because it really is an adorable, playful tune, if you overlook the subtext.

  4. Actually, Trevor...let's make a Christmas song about gettin' some! If you can come up with a ukulele melody, I'll try to write lyrics for it!