Sunday, December 12, 2004

COLUMN: Christmas Carols

Fa la la la la, la la la la. Please make it stop.

The other day I was out running errands and must have heard no fewer than 2,304 songs of holiday cheer. Yes, it's Christmas, I know, but must I be assaulted by merry Muzak each and every time I walk into a store? I pity you poor cashiers who must by now know every subtle nuance to the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

No other holiday comes complete with a stockpile of tunes, especially tunes that nearly everyone on Earth can sing along to. But does anyone really pay attention to Christmas carols? I sure don't. The words are so stuck on auto-pilot in my brain that I simply sing along festively, regardless of lyric. For all I know, the song could go, "Deck the halls with piles of doodie" and I'd be none the wiser. I just smile, nod, and hum along.

So I decided to take a moment and actually pay attention to the words of some of these songs, and I've come to some pretty shocking conclusions.

Some carols start off fairly innoculously. "We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Good tidings we bring to you and your kin." Aww, that's awfully sweet of you... UNTIL: "Oh, bring us a figgy pudding; we won't go until we get some, so bring some right here!" Well, ho ho ho to you too, buddy. The song's basically saying: "Merry Christmas. Whatever. Make with the pudding!"

And call me dumb, but what exactly even IS a figgy pudding? Can anything other than pudding be 'figgy'? "Why, Mrs. Brown, that dress you've got on is simply FIGGY!" Wrong, play again. I can safely guarantee that the only time I've ever ingested fig is when it's safely tucked inside of contained, sterile, pure Newton-y goodness. I don't even know what a fig looks like. Is it a fruit? A vegetable? Do they make figgy Pudding Pops? These, folks, are the questions that keep me up late.

Meanwhile, the closest cousin to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" is another tune that makes pretty limited sense: "Here We Come A-Wassailing." Despite considering myself somewhat learned, I fear that I've never come a-wassailing in my life. A wassail is, in short, an old British custom where villagers would show up at a farm, fire off guns to ward off evil spirits, and drink toasts to the farmer's cows in hopes of increasing their yield. Very jolly, indeed. But you must admit, it's a bit catchier than "Here We Come A-Shooting To Get Drunk & Watch Your Cows Do the Nasty."

Other Christmas carols just plain lie. "I saw three ships come sailing in on Christmas day in the morning." Fine, I'm with ya so far. "Pray, whither sailed those ships all three? O, they sailed to Bethlehem." Well, if you saw three ships sailing into Bethlehem, you might want to put down the frankencense every once in a while, kids. Why? Check out a map. Bethlehem's nowhere near water.

But who's to argue? Go ahead and sing "Deck the halls with boughs of holly" (even though doing so is simply a Pagan ritual to keep witches at bay.) Sing of your old pal Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (even those Rudolph was invented by a marketing rep for Montgomery Ward's who hoped his red nose could be used to sell refrigerators.) Sing of the manger and the little town of Bethlehem (though many historians believe that Jesus was born in a house in Nazareth, then taken to a cave in Bethlehem some time later.) And have a Merry Christmas (though the only thing pretty much all historians can agree on when it comes to Jesus is that he wasn't born on Dec. 25th.)

In the end, it's all semantics. You can't change the fact that it truly IS the most wonderful time of the year, and any holiday touting peace on Earth and good will towards men is to be cherished like none other. So be joyous, have a wonderful time with your families, and I wish you all a truly Merry Christmas.

Now gimme some pudding.

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