This is a guest post by my handsome, but less-enthused-over-the-holidays husband.
Ah, Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as they say. I mean, it’s not true, everybody knows that the most wonderful time of the year is the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament, but I digress. I don’t think people realize just how much of their life is spent in Christmastime. Just for argument’s sake, let’s say that the Christmas season starts halfway through November. Stores start putting Christmas stuff up right after Halloween, but it takes a couple weeks to build steam. By December 1 st it’s already at full speed though, so mid-November seems about right. That’s six weeks or so, or in other words: 12% of the year. What does that mean? 12% is a pretty big portion of your year, about 1/8 of it. You probably don’t spend an eighth of your time in a given year doing anything other than sleeping or working. But you spend an eighth of it in Christmasland. You’re probably saying, if you’re not Charlie Manx, where’s the
harm in that? To that I say: there isn’t! If you want to watch Christmas movies in October, or put up your lights early, more power to you. Whatever you do in the privacy of your own home doesn’t matter to me. What I have a problem with is when others force their holiday celebrations on me for an eighth of my year though, and of course I mean Christmas music.
Now let me say that – objectively speaking – there’s nothing wrong with Christmas music in theory. But in practice, the music is easily the worst part of the season. I mean, the whole tree-decorating bit is never fun, anything over like 5 ornaments is overkill. But it’s over in a few hours and you can move on. You spend weeks having to tolerate Christmas songs. And – again, objectively speaking – Christmas songs are the worst torture you can inflict on a person.
There are some really good Christmas songs, of course. It Feels Like Christmas from The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s In Every One of Us by John Denver and the Muppets. Even non-Muppet songs too, like White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Good King Wenceslas, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen….ok, that’s all I have, the rest are straight up rubbish. They range from the boring trudge that is Handel’s The Messiah, to the date-rapey skeeze of Baby It’s Cold Outside, to the wheezy synth farts of Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Something about Christmas just causes songwriters
to collectively lose their minds and write the worst nonsense they can, and our culture obliges them by playing it over and over and over for 12% of our lives.
My wife thinks that Christmas songs are “cheery”, but this smacks of PTSD from exposure to too many Christmas songs.
Christmas is a sacred time for people of faith – Christians in particular are celebrating the birth of their lord and savior. So why are most traditional carols depressing? Sure, there’s Joy to the World! and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and you can tell they’re happy songs from the exclamation
marks. But once you get past those you’re stuck with Silent Night, O Holy Night, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, Away in a Manger, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and the list goes on and on. All low- tempo, low-energy songs that put you to sleep and drain every last bit of Christmas spirit from the room. It’s no wonder that Santa needs the 5000-reindeer power Kringle 300 jet turbine engine to keep his sleigh in the air these days.
Silent Night in particular is so depressing that, on a cold, miserable Christmas Eve in the trenches during World War I in 1914, with mustard gas and death in the air, it was the only song that a British soldier could think to sing. Away in a Manger may or may not be singing about a Jonestown-like mass genocide of little kids (Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and….take us to heaven?!?!). And these are the songs that are supposed to be sung in celebration of the birth of Christ? It would be like, instead of Happy Birthday, we all sang Hurt by Johnny Cash to each other over a lit birthday cake.
By far the worst offender is the Little Drummer Boy, and it’s not really close. It’s garbage on every level. It’s not catchy, it’s repetitive to the point of seizure-inducing, and it’s as slow as a funeral march. But worst of all, it makes no sense. Picture the scene – Mary and Joseph are in a smelly barn. Mary just gave birth and is exhausted, but is gamely putting up with an endless parade of shepherds and magi and whatnot when all she really wants to do is sleep. Joseph is tired too – I mean, based on the pictures, Mary rode the donkey to Bethlehem while he had to walk the whole way, while also putting up with a pregnant woman on a donkey. They FINALLY get baby Jesus to sleep, and are looking forward to an hour or so of uninterrupted sleep before the baby wakes up crying, and what happens? This jerk kid shows up and won’t stop banging his drum all over the place, and what’s worse, he acts like he’s doing everyone a huge favor the whole time! Baby Jesus is awake, the cattle start lowing again, the chickens are squawking, and the poor new parents are so exhausted they’re probably hallucinating. This is a song only the sadistic could love.
Some people say that it’s about giving what you can. The little drummer boy didn’t have a proper gift, so he gave what he could, which was his talent. It’s a nice sentiment at first glance, but closer observation renders it nonsensical. What if he had a brother whose sole talent was belching the alphabet? I mean, The Little Burping Boy would be more fun to sing, but apparently it’s only okay to give your talent as a gift if it’s socially acceptable.
Both brothers should have just made a homemade card on a flat rock or something and just dropped it off the next morning after everyone got some rest. If some random punk showed up in the hospital room with a drum kit the night my son was born, I would have turned into Keith Moon on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
Christmas should be fun! Quoting Elf and making candy and watching your kids get excited and finding clever ways to wrap your wife’s presents so she won’t guess what they are. It’s 12% of your life, for heaven’s sake, make the most of it. It would just be so much more fun if we cut our losses and started from scratch on the songs. Except for the Muppet ones.