Advent, week two: Christmas music

I am not a radical person when it comes to other people’s celebration of Christmas. My panties, when it comes to proper reverence for the origin of the holiday, are immune to twisting. My personal experience with Christmas has always been in an exclusively religious context, but I will defend to the death anyone else’s right to be in it for the peppermint-flavored things and icicle lights, or for the presents, or the classic movies, or just for the family time, or even not to be into it at all. The Christmas season is beautiful for manifold reasons, and I am opposed to nothing about it that does not decrease its beauty.

That said: I fucking hate modern secular Christmas music.

I am not sure where this prejudice came from. I certainly heard my share of Christmas music growing up; I have sung all the songs many times, played them in many orchestra Christmas medleys and in grudging private concerts for my family, taken them on the road in caroling groups. I know every word to “Jingle Bell Rock”, to “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire,” to goddamn motherfucking “Christmas Shoes.” But no amount of exposure has decreased my loathing. If anything, I’ve come to hate it more with the years. My elitism is honestly kind of impressive at this point – I realized, listening to one of my favorite Christmas playlists the other day, that only three of the songs on it were younger than the United States as a country. I was seriously considering taking “O Holy Night” off of it because it felt too modern. That song was composed in 1847.

I was actually considering doing, like, a top-three list of Christmas songs I hate the most, but that would be difficult, because I hate all of them. It’s a legitimate problem, and a prejudice I have spent years trying to understand– it’s not that I want to hate them! They’re cute, fun songs! They’re just happy odes to the Christmas spirit! They’re meant to appeal to a not-necessarily-Christian audience, and that’s great! I genuinely appreciate modern secular Christmas songs for everything they are, and it does not make “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” cause my eyes to roll in their sockets with fiery loathing any less, every goddamn time it comes on in the supermarket.

I thought for awhile that it might be overexposure, but that can’t be true – I’ve listened to “O Magnum Mysterium” eight times today, but when “Silver Bells” came on the radio for the first time last week I actually shouted “UGH” at the air. And it’s not that they detract from some ideal of what Christmas ~should~ be for me, because, as previously stated, I am in full support of people loving Christmas in whatever fashion brings them the deepest joy. Hell, it can’t even have anything to do with the fact that they’re secular, even subconsciously – some of the greatest traditional Christmas carols are entirely about getting drunk in company, and do not mention Jesus even once! “Here We Come A-Wassailing” actually has a verse demanding money! Capitalizing on Christmas with hit singles is not a new thing! “Deck the Halls,” which is a Welsh song from the 1500s, originally mentioned boobs in the first line! Yet that is a song I love, and I have damaged the radio tuner in my car aggressively changing the station away from the one playing “Santa Baby.”

The fact that I can’t share in this particular expression of Christmas joy is sort of disappointing. Sometimes, I listen to the songs I hate and try to imagine what about them could be changed to make me hate them less; like, what if “All I Want For Christmas Is You” were in Latin? What if “Frosty the Snowman” were sung to the tune of “The Holly and the Ivy”? Would I still love “I Saw Three Ships” as much as I do if it were performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks? These are questions without answers. As thought exercises, they do little but make me uncomfortable. This is, I think, just a cross I’m going to have to bear, a source of innate Grinchiness that I will battle with for the rest of my life. I will be gritting my teeth at Christmas parties until I am old and grey, smiling such that all my teeth break while “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” wafts mellowly by. I will still be breaking glasses of eggnog in my fist over “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” when our robot overlords come for us. I will be screaming the lyrics to “Veni, Veni Emmanuel” in my head when the sun explodes and devours all life with fire.

….I will concede, however, that there is an exception. One exception. I draw hope from it; if I can love this song, could I not also one day love “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”? Could not my heart this way be opened?

No crocodiles! No rhinoceroses! I only like hippopotamuses!

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6 Responses to Advent, week two: Christmas music

  1. mmjordahl says:

    Maybe the secret is that you only like modern Christmas songs that are EXTRA SILLY. Comedy Christmas songs are a tradition in my house–I know more of them than I know actual Christmas songs, old or modern. I suggest “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas” by Stan Freberg (1955):

    My favorite as a child, though, was this random-ass song about a man putting all his cows to bed on Christmas Eve, but then when he’s gone the cows all throw a Christmas party. Halfway through the song the guy comes back to see what all the commotion is about, and the cows pretend to be sleeping, and that part of the song REQUIRED that my brother and I collapse onto the floor and play dead, only to resume insane dancing as soon as the music kicked back in. I seriously begged my parents to play this song as often as I possibly could. It was practically on repeat.

    • Sarah says:


      …..can you track down the name of that cow one, though? because that sounds absolutely adorable, and also your family tradition is absolutely adorable.

    • mmjordahl says:

      I FOUND IT ON GROOVESHARK. I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS SONG MADE IT TO THE INTERNET.!/search/song?q=Cow+Christmas+Deck+the+Stalls+(With+Oats+and+Barley)

      • Sarah says:




      • mmjordahl says:

        For some reason WordPress will only let me reply to my own comments, but ISN’T THIS SONG GREAT? It’s just two and a half minutes of cow puns and exaggerated cowhand stereotypes. Now you have to listen to it and imagine 6-year-old me dancing to it like a goddamn dancing queen. Hint: I was NOT GRACEFUL.

        Also I am counting finding your second exception among the greater achievements of my life. I’d like to thank my father and the absurd sense of humor he passed down to me.

  2. Pingback: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Appropriate Contemporary Christian Music For My Queer Teenage Narrative | I WROTE THING

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