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Russell Wangersky: The disturbing messages inside some Christmas songs

That hat does look kind of big ...
That hat does look kind of big ...

Has paganism triumphed over Christian morals?

For years, there has been scholarly analysis that shows fairy tales hide darker secrets. If you’ve heard the analysis that posits the variety of sexual connotations of “Little Red Riding Hood,” you might never read it to children again. 

Russell Wangersky
Russell Wangersky

Here’s my reductive analysis of Christmas songs I despise. By over-explaining their imagined hidden content, I hope to make them unplayable.

“The Hat I Got For Christmas is Too Beeg” is clearly a neo-Marxist attempt to subvert the tenets of Christmas commercialism that we all hold so dear. On the one hand, the outrageous accent used throughout the song suggests that those who do not match the accepted standards of North America will face inherent racism, never being allowed to fit in, an argument that skilfully hidden in the suggestion that even their hats won’t fit. (Don’t get me started on the name of the song’s writer: Mel Blanc!)

That claim of racism is further buried in the subtext that though the simplest solution for ill-fitting clothing is to return it, even that solution is apparently not available to immigrants facing suspicious merchants.

Metaphorically, there is also the message of a lack of understanding: if you’re not from here, we can’t be bothered to get your hat size right.

It is, of course, all an attempt to enrage an emerging underclass and seek revolutionary overthrow, made exceptionally clear in the lines, “I’ll ring the bells to be polite, but if I see that Santy Claus, I going to start a fight.”

Play it, and you issue a call to arms.

Now turn to “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

Obviously, this is paganism’s triumph over Christian morals. Why, even the kids believe that, under the powerful spell of pagan mistletoe, Christian marriage vows fly out the window and everyone’s lip-locking with imaginary characters at a moment’s notice.

The anti-feminist message is also clear: faced with the tableau of a woman kissing a poorly disguised husband, the children leap immediately to the idea that women, represented by their mother, are weak. Not only that, but there’s the introduction of threat; some versions indicate that the child plans to tell their father about the dalliance, leading to “humourous” results. “Oh, what a laugh it would have been, if Daddy had only seen, Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.”

Clearly it is meant to introduce Carl Jung’s Electra fantasy, a modification of Sigmund Freud’s Oedipal complex. As Mommy is engaged in tickling Santa Claus “underneath his beard so snowy white,” the child is planning to engineer Mommy’s downfall and replace her in the family unit.

This is a call for the dark destruction of the social and moral order.

“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” Hidden inside an anthem suggesting the need for Christmas safety — if you are inebriated following eggnog overindulgence, stay home — is actually a violent subtext. Grandma is murdered, with a stagey hoofprint on her forehead. The blame goes to Santa, someone even the narrator suggests people think is imaginary.

And Grandpa? “He’s been taking this so well, see him in there watching football, drinking beer and playing cards with cousin Mel.”

Ladies and gentleman, we have a suspect, and it ain’t Mel.

I’ll be short. This is not a Christmas song. This is a detective novel about covering up family violence, waiting for that last, decisive chapter.

“Feliz Navidad”? I have one word: numerology. Deceptively simple, every line of the song is precisely five beats. “Fel-iz Nav-i-dad. Pros-per-ous an-o. Y Fel-i-ci-dad.” Do you see? The number five is connected to thoughtlessness, selfishness and irresponsibility, with a tendency for alcohol, drugs and sex. Couple that with the Christmas, and we’re looking at a bacchanal here.

Oh, and “The Little Drummer Boy” was clearly on speed. What else can you say about a song that uses the word “pum” 63 times in just four verses?

These songs are dark. Stop playing them.

Russell Wangersky's column appears in 35 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at — Twitter: @wangersky.

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