I love all kinds of Christmas music–carols, secular songs, children’s songs–provided it is not played before Thanksgiving. That being said, there are a number of songs associated with Christmas time that really don’t seem to have anything to do with Christmas.
Take the old standard, “Jingle Bells.” There is no mention of Christmas in the lyrics. According to Wikipedia, it was written by James Lord Pierpont, J.P. Morgan’s uncle, in 1850, and was inspired by one-horse open sleigh races between Medford Square and Malden Square in Medford, Massachusetts. It was originally intended for the Thanksgiving season and was often sung as a drinking song at parties. Personally, I’ve never been in a one-horse open sleigh, so I don’t know if it is fun or not, yet I sing with gusto as if I know it is.
There are several other “winter-themed” songs heard only during the Christmas season, such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Let it Snow.” Living in the south and having lived for two years on the equator, it is hard to appreciate the requisite for snow in order to have a real Christmas, but it must be true as all the Christmas movies feature snow. I sometimes wonder how other people who live where Christmas falls during hot weather feel about this stereotype. As for me, I am quite happy not having a white Christmas, which is one of the reasons I escaped Ohio. In fact, the song, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” conjures up visions in my mind of shoveling snow, having my car stuck in the snow, and breaking my neck on ice. More like a nightmare than a dream. Snow is only beautiful when one is inside a warm house with a roaring fire, sipping a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows, and gazing out the window at the pristine newly fallen snow before it turns into black slush.
One of the traditional Christmas songs which never fails to amuse me is “Little Drummer Boy.” Now don’t get me wrong, I like the tune and the lyrics are sweet. But I have to consider it from the perspective of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The poor woman had to travel approximately seventy miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the joyful purpose of paying taxes (talk about rubbing salt in the wound), in the condition of being “great with child.” This couldn’t have been easy. The Bible doesn’t tell us whether she walked or perhaps rode a donkey or had other modes of transportation. Nevertheless, any journey in her late stage of pregnancy would have been uncomfortable. Then when she arrives in Bethlehem, there is no place to stay, so she ends up having to give birth in a stable (which was probably a cave rather than what we think of as a wooden structure). Although the Bible doesn’t explicitly say, it is assumed there either were animals present, or the area had been used for animals, as baby Jesus was laid in a manger, which is a feeding trough for animals. So, in addition to the ordeal of having just given birth, the lack of cleanliness and the barnyard odors most likely added to her discomfort.
Then what happens? A snot-nosed little brat shows up and bangs on a drum! He probably woke the baby after she’d just gotten him to sleep! Somehow, I find it difficult to envision any woman who had just gone through what Mary did nodding her head when the drummer boy asked if he could play his drum for baby Jesus, rather than asking Joseph to please get rid of the kid and especially his drum. Who wants to hear a drum solo when one is stressed, exhausted, and (oh yes) just given birth in a stable? But as the little drummer boy is not scriptural, I suppose I shouldn’t attach too much significance to the scenario.
Enjoy all the wonderful music of the season, don’t worry about analyzing it too deeply, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”