POSTED BY THE VEGAN HUSBAND
We don’t try to hide the fact that we love listening to Christmas music. This year the last trick or treater was walking down the driveway when we had Frosty the Snowman queued up and ready to go. I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
What I love is the pure diversity of the songs. You can hear a song played in church on Christmas Eve, followed by I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas. Some songs are played with full orchestration, others by only barking dogs. Some tunes have been covered by multiple artists, yet one version remains sacred. Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole can rest easy knowing their voices will be heard every Christmas season.
The fact that many songs are brought back year after year can create some awkwardness now that our society has become more politically correct. The word gay in songs has always meant merry or happy, but for years, we giggled when we heard it. But it’s come full circle, because now people don’t giggle anymore.
But not all songs translate well in the 21st century. Take for instance, Benjamin Hanby’s Up on the Housetop, penned back in 1864. You’d be hard pressed to find an older Christmas song yet it still gets regular play on the radio.
The girl in the song, Nell, makes out okay for an 1860’s child. She gets “a dolly that laughs and cries, one that will open and shut its eyes.” But what about the boy? Little Will gets “a hammer with lots of tacks, a whistle and a ball and a whip that cracks.” I don’t know what kind of shenanigans little boys were into back then, but this seems to go beyond devious. I can understand the ball, but what kind of fun do you have with a whistle? How long before the adults get annoyed with that? I can hear my Dad saying, “Enough with that whistle already! Give it a rest!”
A hammer and tacks? Merry Christmas! Now go fix the roof on the chicken coop.
And don’t even get me started on that whip….
Jump ahead almost a century and let’s break down Meredith Wilson’s It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Written in 1951, it sounds pretty tame. Things haven’t changed much for the females. Janice and Jen still get dolls, but now they “talk and go for a walk.” But the boys have regressed to unwrapping “hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots.”
Are hopalong boots worn for fashion or with a purpose? Would you kick up dust or wade through the snow? Was the pistol a way of saying, “Touch my boots and you’ll have to answer to Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson”? I just don’t know.
Finally, there’s the classic, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, from the team of Edward Pola and George Wyle in 1963. It celebrates the “hap-happiest season of all with those holiday greeting and gay happy meetings.” Nothing like a good meeting to put you in the spirit.
And then there’s this: “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” I don’t know about your Christmas traditions, but we did not sit around with a flashlight in the dark, trying to scare one another. Some of our family gatherings became scary ghost stories but that’s another thing entirely.
So let’s wrap up political correctness for this holiday season and put a bow on it. Hum along to the jingling bells, drummer boys, and angels singing. And know that Meredith Wilson nailed one sentiment correctly over sixty years ago, one that will ring true for generations: Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.