Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Most Argumentative Time of the Year

And now it’s time for everyone’s favorite December pastime...arguing over Christmas songs.

And this started long before the current flap over Baby It’s Cold Outside, which probably seemed creepy to younger people for quite some time before the #metoo movement brought it to everyone’s attention in a way that many of us older folks hadn’t thought of it before. No...people have been arguing about Christmas music for as long as there’s been Christmas music.

We’ve been arguing over whether or not something counts as a Christmas song, we’ve been arguing over whether or not something is a good Christmas song. We’ve been arguing over whether or not something is a tasteful Christmas song. And we we’ve been arguing that certain songs don’t belong on Christmas albums or shouldn’t be played on the radio based on our own personal preferences...as if we were the sole arbiter of what’s a good Christmas song…and forgetting that there are millions of people out there with just as many opinions.

Let’s face it, if you think about it a bit, many so-called Christmas songs aren’t even Christmas songs at all...they’re winter songs, and should be played all the way from December 21st to March 21st. But for some reason, we start celebrating winter the day after Thanksgiving and get tired of it on January 2nd...after only 13 official days of the season.

Songs like Jingle BellsJingle Bell RockSleigh RideHome for the HolidaysWinter Wonderland, and Let it Snow are all about winter, not Christmas. But we consider them part of the canon anyway.

Which brings us back to Baby It’s Cold Outside. Creepiness aside, there are those who maintain that this shouldn’t be in the canon because it’s not even a Christmas song. When you bring up the “winter” argument, they counter that it only talks about it being cold, and doesn’t mention the time of year at all.

Unless you look at the lyric that says:

Baby, you’ll freeze out there
It’s up to your knees out there

Up to your knees in what? Ragweed? Pork bellies? Pennies from heaven? I’m betting Frank Loesser was talking about snow…which would mean it was winter…unless you’re in Syracuse, where it could snow into May.

And then, on the not so creepy side, we have My Favorite Things, which everyone agrees is not a Christmas song, but keeps ending up on Christmas albums and playlists anyway. We can thank a song plugger for Rogers and Hammerstein for that. He convinced several well-known recording artists to put that song on their Christmas albums in 1964 in order to drum up interest in the upcoming film The Sound of Music. And now, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with either Christmas or winter, we seem to be stuck with it.

I have a friend who absolutely hates Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, and can’t understand why anyone likes or plays that song. But I remember when it first came out. I was in my mid-20s, and thought the song was hilarious in a way that perhaps only someone in their 20s can.

And I’m sorry, but you have to be a total Grinch not to like The Chipmunk Song.

But finally, for those who insist that only hymns and other religious music can really count as Christmas songs, I’m gonna end here with a song that is so beloved by many that you won’t believe that anyone dared question it. The quintessential Christmas song, second only to Silent Night. I’m talking about Cantique de Noel, or Oh Holy Night.

What could anyone find wrong with that? Well, after it achieved a certain level of popularity in its native France, the Catholic church considered it inappropriate for use in church for two reasons. The first was that the original poem was written by a wine merchant who had no interest in religion, and indeed, was a Socialist. The second was that the friend who set that poem to music was Jewish. Fortunately, by the time the French church tried to put the kibosh on it, the genie had been out of the bottle for quite some time, and even if it was inappropriate for singing at mass, people would sing it in their homes and everywhere else in France.

So…I’m going to close by saying, no matter how you feel about this song or that song, let’s just take this time to give our arguing a little rest. Accept the fact that different people have different tastes about holiday music, and, in the words of Ralph Blaine…

Have yourself a merry little Christmas!