Holiday songs: 5 picks and 5 pans

Well, love them or hate them, it officially “’tis the season” when all the pop radio stations start switching over to holiday songs so we’d thought we take a moment for some light-hearted fun on the subject. Many holiday songs are pretty nondescript but most people have a few that they just absolutely love… and then there are those that make you want to fill your ears with Quikrete.

Here’s a list of our picks and pans!

The Pans

Pan #1- Gayla Peevey, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”

Whiny brat singing about something completely head-scratchingly weird. It doesn’t even sound like a real child either, more like Madonna after a hit of helium. Yeeesh, at least those daggum chipmunks make some sense!

Pan #2- Traditional, “Twelve Days of Christmas”

This song seems to go on monotonously longer than “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald!” And really? If my true love ever tried to give to me all that sh**t, I’d be telling him to lay off the blow.

Huffington Post
Huffington Post

Pan #3- Elmo & Patsy, “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”

There’s a very personal reason for this one annoying me. When I was very young (and impressionable, I might add) my older brother and sister taught me to sing this and swore up and down that the lyrics were “Grandma got run over by a reindeer, coming from the outhouse Christmas Eve.” When I proudly demonstrated my new vocal talents to my Sunday School teacher the next day, needless to say she was less than amused at my inappropriate disruption. Ah, the joys of siblings.


Pan #4- New Kids on the Block, “Funky, Funky Xmas”

Truly awful, and it’s not just because it’s the New Kids. This is a genuinely terrible song that isn’t even really a song because songs have, you know, structure. In this train wreck Donny Wahlberg and the Funky Bunch (oh, wait, the Funky Bunch was brother Mark’s band) sit around the studio yammering pseudho-hip hop nonsense like “Yo, MC Santa, you didn’t know my boy Donnie could play percussion, did you?” “Are you ready, guys?” and “You know Joey Joe’s ready!” Yo, we challenge you to play it and see if you can sit through the whole thing!

Pan #5- Jimmy Boyd, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

Can’t get enough of Xmas songs sung by annoying brats? This one ironically only makes sense to adults but could probably only be endured by children who still believe in Santa, thus turning the song about a wife kissing her husband into a disturbing tale of yuletide adultery being witnessed by an innocent child who will surely be psychologically scarred forever.

The Picks

Okay, enough with the complaining, it’s time to get into the spirit with our picks!

Pick #1- Bing Crosby, “Mele Kalikimaka”

I’ve spent enough time in warmer climes to come to the belief that while snow and ice are all well and good when you’re doing something with them, e.g. skiing, etc., they’ve got no business interfering with daily life. So a song with a tropical slant is right up my alley! And who can help but to giggle thinking about that scene in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase dreaming of his pool-to-be?

Pick #2- Peter, Paul and Mary, “A Soalin'”

Sure, this one’s not terribly uplifting, but if one can’t be “puffing the magic dragon” to take the edge off the holiday family visitors, at least you can enjoy the harmonies of Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Pick #3- Frank Sinatra, “Jingle Bells”

Need to be version specific here: we are talking about the Sinatra rendition. No one but the Chairman of the Board could take a milquetoast holiday classic and turn it into a finger-popping piece of swing. Brilliant.

“I love those J-i-n-g-l-e B-e-double-l-s”

Capitol Records
Capitol Records

Pick #4- Judy Garland, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Ideally, at its best, Christmas (or any of the year end holidays) is about remembering the things that are important and being content with those things, taking the opportunity of another year’s close to reflect and rekindle our appreciation for what we have. Maybe no other song captures that sense of quiet, wistful joy than  this. Though wonderfully sung by many of the greats (Sinatra, Crosby), none of the other versions top the one by the immortal Judy Garland.

Pick #5- Traditional, “O Holy Night”

Rounding out our picks with a religiously-themed classic. There’s a beautiful story behind “O Holy Night.”  In 1843 the French town of Roquemaure had their church organ renovated, and to celebrate the occasion the parish priest asked Placide Cappeau, a local poet, to compose a religious Christmas poem. Cappeau did, despite being an atheist, and the result was “Midnight, Christians” which was then turned into a song in 1847 by Adolphe Adam, and it has since become one of the most solemn Xmas songs in the holiday canon. We don’t know about you but we find it very moving that an atheist could cross the barrier of ideology to write a poem/song that has moved millions of religious believers during Christmas time. Seems like an act of kindness that could never happen in today’s climate of cultural politics, and if it doesn’t capture the communal holiday spirit we don’t know what does.

Okay, so it’s your turn, Pop Mythology readers!  Which holiday songs put the spring in your step and which ones make  you climb the holly-bedecked walls?  We want to hear from you!

About Andrea Sefler

Andrea Sefler
Andrea is a consultant and technical writer for various scientific software and instrumentation companies. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Berkeley and has never met a genre of music or books that she hasn’t liked. As a gamer since the days of the Apple II, Andrea can relate any number of hair-raising tales about role-playing games stored on 360 kB 5.25” floppy disks and may, someday, put them to paper.

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