One of the most prevalent and, indeed, important pieces of the Christmas season is music. No matter where you go — shopping malls, work, even just traveling somewhere in your car — the “sounds of the season” are being crammed in your ears by radio stations and satellite Muzak services.
And I actually kind of like that. As I mentioned in my Christmas mini-memoir (You have a copy, right? Here’s a link if you don’t. It’s only 99 cents!), my mother always kicked off the holidays by putting as many Christmas records as would fit on our turntable and blasting them through the house. I was in choir in high school and college, so Christmas music was a must for those December concerts.
As a special holiday service, I have compiled a list of the five dumbest Christmas songs ever. Because I’m “special,” this top-five list has more than five songs on it. What can I say? I’m a writer, and math was never my best subject in school.
So here they are — the five, er, eight, dumbest Christmas carols ever!
#5: “Jingle Bell Rock” / “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
These two songs are part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll revolution of the 1950’s. There were a whole slew of songs aimed at The Establishment (before it was called The Establishment) that essentially said, “Rock ‘n’ Roll will never die; it’s the new music thing; you stodgy old bastards can’t stop us; blah-blah-blah.”
Into this morass came “Jingle Bell Rock” (1957) and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958). Sure these are Christmas songs, but they were recorded specifically to make Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas songs. They pandered to youthful listeners and raised a collective middle finger to older listeners. That’s not really in keeping with the Christmas spirit.
The lyrics are bad and dated, as well. “Rockin’ around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop?”How many of today’s listeners even know what a hop is? (And isn’t use of the term a deliberate marketing play towards the youth of ’58?)
Every time one of these monstrosities comes on the radio, I’m diving for the channel-switch button. Here’s a tip, folks: write songs about Christmas, not songs with a Christmas theme designed to appeal to a certain demographic.
#4: “The Holly and the Ivy”
“The holly has a prickle as sharp as any thorn / And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas in the morn.”
This is one of the prettiest songs ever written, but doesn’t make a damned bit of sense. Holly and ivy are pagan symbols frequently associated with Winter Solstice and Yuletide traditions that someone apparently decided to try to musically graft into Christianity through powerful metaphors of the birth of Christ. Except that the Christian and pagan images don’t have anything to do with each other, and as evidenced by the lyrics I quote above, the association doesn’t work at all.
This song is a mess of confusing metaphors, missing points, and false logic. It sounds lovely . . . as long as you don’t listen to the words.
#3: “Jingle Bells” / “Sleigh Ride!” / “Winter Wonderland”
Why are these Christmas songs? They don’t have a thing to do with Christmas. They’re winter songs, and in the case of the first two, they’re celebrations of something that doesn’t even happen anymore – taking a ride in a horse-driven sleigh.
Why don’t you hear “Winter Wonderland” in January? Why isn’t “Sleigh Ride!” a big Valentine’s Day hit?
To be fair, I should probably put “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on this list too, but it’s jazzy and cute, and I kind of like it, so I’ll leave it off.
Besides, then I’d have nine songs on a top-five list, which is really one short of a top-ten list, and that would hurt my brain too much.
#2: “The Twelve Days of Christmas”
This is the Christmas carol that will not end. Does anyone know all the words to this one without the sheet music in front of them? Does anyone have fun singing this one?
It’s pretty telling that this is the most mocked Christmas song of all time. Parodies of this musical disaster such as “The Twelve Pains of Christmas,” “The Twelve Days After Christmas,” and Bob and Doug McKenzie’s rendition show just how reviled this carol is.
It’s tolerable as written as long as it’s done comically, such as when the Muppets perform it, but please don’t do this one for real. Anyone coming to my house and launching into this carol approximately the length of a Tolstoy novel gets thrown off the porch for a) singing a bad song, and b) attempting to let all the heat out of the house as they drone on through 12 verses.
#1: “The Little Drummer Boy”
But without question, the all-time stupidest Christmas carol is “The Little Drummer Boy” for its utter ridiculousness.
All of you out there who have had a baby, I want you to picture this. You had to give birth in a barn after traveling on foot for miles and miles. The new arrival has finally fallen asleep. And some kid you don’t know shows up and celebrates your joyous 12 hours of labor by banging on a snare drum, waking your baby and sending him into a fit of squawling that makes your teeth rattle and gives you a migraine God himself can’t fix.
There is no mother on Earth who would want this, and no father who wouldn’t break the little urchin in half. If Mary nodded (pa-rum-pa-pum-pum), it was because she was still under the effects of the Demerol.
So there you have it – five, er, eight Christmas carols to make you say “Bah! Humbug!”
Clement Moore wrote, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” I wish you the same, but I’m sure it will be happier and better if you leave these eight disasters off your playlist.