Category Archives: Christmas songs

Of Ghosts And Flying Reindeer

The Christmas season certainly has a lot of traditions attached to it, doesn’t it?  From what we actually celebrate (namely Santa, Hanukkah and the birth of Jesus) to countless family practices within countless households, traditions hold a significant place within our society.  We’ve all got our favorite ones, too, don’t we?  But do you ever stop to think about where they came from?  “How did this tradition start?”, is a question that can produce some interesting answers.

Hanukkah and the birth of Jesus are both historically accurate occurrences (although tradition has put Jesus in a manger on Christmas, when he actually was at least a few months old by the time the wise men found him on December 25)*.  When it comes to Santa, though, the earliest accounts of this fable only date back to 1821 with a children’s poem (author unknown) titled “Old Santeclaus with Much Delight”.  At that point, the earliest drawings depict Santa being pulled by just one reindeer** (and you’d think that Rudolph would have been that reindeer, what with Santa needing his glowing nose and all).

As a result of these foundations for most of our holiday traditions, it has led to one of the biggest and most well-known traditions of them all:  Christmas carols!  Obviously, many are about the birth of Jesus and quite a few are about Santa as well.  But then we also have carols that are simply about our traditions:  sleigh rides, children playing in the snow, chestnuts roasting over a fire and the food we eat during the holidays.  One of these songs is called, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.  Ever heard that one?  I didn’t hear it until I was working for an upscale hotel restaurant in my early twenties.  My first Christmas season there, I actually heard a few songs that I never even knew existed (and I was even one of those kids growing up who would listen to Christmas carols as soon as Thanksgiving was over)!  This one really threw me for a loop, though.  And let me tell you why…..

George Wyle (the vocal director for The Andy Williams Show), along with Edward Pola, actually wrote this song for Andy to sing on the show in 1963.***  It’s a song that’s all about traditions.  But when I heard the lyrics within a certain part of this song, it stopped me in my tracks and forced me to do a double-take on what I had just heard.  Here is that part of the song:

There’ll be parties for hosting

Marshmallows for toasting

And caroling out in the snow

There’ll be scary ghost stories

And tales of the glories of

Christmases long, long ago

Do you see it?  Who on God’s green earth associates scary ghost stories with Christmas??  What does that even look like?  Can you picture it?  You and your family are sitting in a comfy room in front of a cozy fire that crackles and hisses in the fireplace.  The smell of pine fills the air from the garland of real pine that lines the mantle above it.  Across the room is a beautiful Christmas tree, glowing warmly with the colors of red, blue, orange and green.  The gentle flames of candles scattered around the room cause firelight to dance on the walls around you.  You have just taken part in one of the best Christmas dinners you’ve ever had–every dish that every family member is known for making the best of was part of that meal.  Suddenly, as everyone is basking in the serene atmosphere that surrounds them, Uncle Joe blurts out, “Hey, just between you, me and the fence post, has anyone heard about the ghost of the truck driver that was killed in that horrible accident a few years back?  They say he still roams these parts, looking for the kids that ran out in front of his truck.  Anyone seen Billy lately?”

Apparently somebody thought this was a good idea, but why?!  Talk about a really weird and disturbing tradition!  After much contemplation, the only connection that I can make is that this could be referring to the ghosts in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.  Then recently, I learned that it was actually a Victorian tradition to tell ghost stories at Christmas time (could explain why Dickens’ story was considered such a classic).

So, needless to say, not all traditions are worth carrying on!  Personally, I’m glad that that one has fallen by the wayside….

Enjoy your traditions, my friend.  And have a very blessed and Merry Christmas!!

 

* DVD entitled “The Star Of Bethlehem”.

**Wikipedia, “Santa Claus’s reindeer”.

***Wikipedia, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

A Christmas Carol

Christmas carols.  We all love them.  Usually.  When we don’t, it’s probably because we’re walking through Wal-Mart a week into November and already hearing Christmas music.  But barring those kind of episodes, most of us look forward to playing our favorite music and carols this time of year.

I’ve got my favorites, but in thinking about one to convey my best Christmas wishes to you today, I found it hard to settle on just one.  I thought of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”.  Nice sentiment, but all the song is really about is singing until someone decides to hand out generous amounts of figgy pudding.  It’s an early English carol from the West Country of England about wealthy people giving “Christmas treats” to carolers.  Sure, that sounds like something worth singing for, except that these so-called “treats” were some form of figgy pudding, as previously mentioned.  This figgy pudding could have been made with figs, raisins or plums.  It really doesn’t matter, since my idea of a “Christmas treat” does not remotely involve these three…….(gag)…..things (something about fruit-cake-molasses-cookies comes to mind).

Then there was “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.  Sounds like it would be a better choice, right?  This is a song that was written for Judy Garland to sing in a 1944 musical.  Her and her family were to be moving away and she is singing this to her younger sister.  The problem was that the original lyrics were so depressing that she asked the song writer to rewrite them.  Get the tune in your head and put these original lyrics to it:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

It may be your last.

Next year we may all be living in the past.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

Pop that champagne cork.

Next year we may all be living in New York.

I know!  Who knew??  Thankfully, when Frank Sinatra recorded this song and immortalized it in 1957, he finished the positive lyrical change by requesting that the line “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow” be changed to something more positive.  And so the line we’ve all since heard many times was created:  “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough”.  Interestingly as well is the fact that the line ” If the fates allow” was originally “If the Lord allows”.

Since it looks like most of this country will be having a green Christmas this year, “White Christmas” came to mind.  Written in 1940, it was sung by Bing Crosby in 1942.  It is the best-selling single of all time and is #2 on the “Songs Of The Century” list–second only to Judy Garland’s “Over The Rainbow”.  This song also has the distinction of being broadcast on Armed Forces Radio as the pre-arranged signal for the U.S. evacuation of Saigon on April 30, 1975.  There have been over 500 recordings of this song, but only a handful of musical artists have included the original opening verse (my favorite being the rendition by Karen Carpenter):

The sun is shining, the grass is green,

The orange and palm trees sway.

There’s never been such a day,

In Beverly Hills, L.A.

But it’s December the twenty-fourth,

And I’m longing to be up North….

By the way, both of these last two songs I’ve mentioned were extremely important and became the mainstays that we know them to be because of WWII.

Let’s finish with this one:  “O Holy Night” is a French Christmas carol that began in the French town of Roquemaure at the end of 1843.  The local parish priest was wanting to celebrate the renovation of the church organ and asked a local native to write a Christmas poem.  Pretty remarkable, since the local native that he asked to do it was an atheist!  Music was put to it soon after and a singable version of the poem was created in 1855.  What will follow here is what amounts to the first verse and chorus of the original English translation of the poem, with the singable carol that we are all so familiar with following it.  Compare the two  and remember that an atheist wrote this remarkable piece of poetry:

English Translation

Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour

When God as man descended unto us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

The entire world thrills with hope

On this night that gives it a Saviour.

People, kneel down,

Await your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

Christmas Carol

O holy night!

The stars are brightly shining.

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees!

O hear the angel voices!

O night divine,

O night when Christ was born.

O night divine,

O night, O night divine.

Just an interesting thought about this that I heard someone share recently.  The night before this one was the last night Satan and sin and death would reign.  The night that Jesus was born (and it’s a fact that this night actually happened) was the first night that things would never be the same–ever!  As of that holy night, God sending His Son like He did forever changed life on this earth as we know it.  For all of mankind–past, present and future.

It is my prayer that you have a peaceful, relaxing and fulfilling Holiday season and that you are able to see the fullness of Jesus Christ and His love for you this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

A Rabbit Trail

It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?  We’ve gotten some snow since we last walked.  Take a look over there to the right.  See those prints in the snow?  They’re rabbit tracks and they look pretty fresh!  I’m sure this rabbit trail will come back out onto the main trail on up ahead of us.  C’mon…..

Because it’s just that time of year, and this is the Sunday before Christmas, I thought we’d talk about a certain Christmas song:  “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas”.

Most everyone knows this song by the voice that we’ve all heard sing it–Mr. Burl Ives.  He wasn’t the first to sing it, however.  He sang it in 1965, but the Quinto Sisters (I know, me too–who??) sang it first in 1964, the same year that it was heard in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer–yes, sung by Burl Ives, but an official holiday recording by him wasn’t made until the following year.  The song was actually written by a man named Johnny Marks, along with the Rudolph song, for the Rudolph show itself.

So where am I going with this?  Well, there are two lines of lyrics in this song that have always seemed to jump out at me–like when something makes you do a double-take and causes you to ask yourself, “Did I hear that right?”.   Check this out:

Ho ho the mistletoe
Hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you
Kiss her once for me

“Kiss her once for me???  Ok, Johnny, why are you wanting to kiss my wife?  First, if a woman is actually waiting for me at the mistletoe, do you really think I’m going to kiss her for you?  And second, the only woman that would be waiting for me at any mistletoe would be my wife.  So, Johnny, why are you wanting to kiss my wife?  Hmmm??  You know what that makes me think?  “Them thar’s faghtin’ wards, ain’t dey?”  How many men have you ticked off with those two lines, Johnny?  I’ll bet quite a few and they’re probably thinking, “Hold it, bud.  You want me to do what for who?  That’s my woman, dude.  Oh, I’m about to go off on you!  You want summa ‘dis?  Game on!  Here Comes The Boom, Baby!  Jingle BAM!!  Didja feel that one?  Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!  I’ll deck your halls….”

Hmmm.  Ok, that’s a bit over-the-edge.  But what if….anyway, one thing is for sure, Johnny.  You have accomplished something that, to the best of my knowledge, no one else has done:  You have forever immortalized flirting with another man’s woman….in a Christmas song.  But, in the big scheme of things, I guess that’s ok.  I suppose there’s no harm done (as far as we know).  Just find your own mistletoe, Johnny, and steer clear of my wife.

That’s really an amazing feat, isn’t it?  Want to know something equally as amazing?  I’ll bet you won’t ever be able to hear this song again without reflecting back on what you’ve just read….and finding a smile has crept across your face at the memory of it.

So, hey–HAVE A HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS!!!