Blogmas 2018: Christmas Songs that Don’t Make Sense

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A reader suggested that I do a blog post about my favorite Christmas songs. Instead, I decided to post about Christmas songs that don’t make sense. Does that make me a cynic? Perhaps.

But seriously, as a writer, lyrics matter to me. And Christmas songs are in a category of their own as far as weirdness goes. This isn’t even a comprehensive list, just the ones that occurred to me.

Category A: Songs with Extremely Confusing Grammar

1. How Should a King Come

He shall dine upon summer straw, berries and, milk.

What the bunnyslipper is summer straw, and why is a king eating it?? I wondered this for years. Even though I eventually learned that it’s supposed to be “summer strawberries,” it still annoys me. If you put a pause between two halves of a compound word, it becomes two words. That’s the rule.

2. Hark the Herald Angels Sing

This lyric is so grammatically bad that it could have so many different meanings:

“Hark!” sang all the herald angels.
You should hark, because the herald angels are singing!
“Hark the herald!” sing the angels.
You should hark, because the angels are singing a herald.

You could probably think of more. For my part, I always imagine herald angels yelling “hark!” What is a herald angel, you might ask? I have no idea. There are all sorts of angels, why not herald angels? Maybe they’re the angels that give heralds. Maybe they’re all named “Herald.” Maybe they’re all guardian angels of guys named “Herald.”

Again. Countless interpretations.

3. We Three Kings

We, three kings, of Orientar

Where is Orientar, you might ask? Why, it’s where the wise men came from! Duh!

“Orientar” has the opposite problem of “summer straw, berries and, milk.” If you smash two words together, it sounds like one word.

And it’s much, much worse if you use a grammar structure that literally no one uses in real life.

“Hey Emily, where are you from?”

“I from Oregon am.”

“Huh?”

“Well I from Canada was, but I to Oregon moved when I was four, and then I around did moved for awhile, and now I in Delaware am.”

“Okay…”

Category B: Songs With Extremely Dubious Messages

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

I always though Rudolph’s story was kind of cute. I mean, this poor reindeer was an outcast, but then he found his place in the world!

But a few years ago I read a blog post that dug into it a bit more. I wish I remembered were it was so I could give them credit, but anyway, look closely at these lyrics:

All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph, play in any reindeer games
Then one foggy Christmas eve, Santa came to say
Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?
Then all the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee
“Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in history!”

So let me get this right. The other reindeer bullied him for being different. Then, as soon as they saw that he was useful/would go down in history, they suddenly loved him.

What sort of message is that? Become useful or noteworthy, and people will stop bullying you?

If it’s supposed to be an anti-bullying message, like, we should appreciate the unique talents of those who are different than us, then why didn’t the other reindeer receive any consequences, or experience any remorse?

5. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

I still remember my mom explaining this song to me when I was a child. “The Daddy was dressed up like Santa Claus, so the Mommy was kissing him. But the boy didn’t know it was really his Daddy, not Santa.”

As a child, I accepted this explanation. As an adult, I am very dubious. In what world it is cute and funny that a child legitimately thinks his mom is kissing and tickling someone who’s not his Daddy? Ew.

Honorable Mentions: “Santa Baby.” “Baby it’s Cold Outside.” (Can we just not use the word “baby” in Christmas songs unless we’re talking about the actual Baby Jesus?) “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” (He sees you when you’re sleeping???)

Category C: Wait…What??

6. Silent Night

Round, yon virgin, mother and child

What does this line even mean?

My best guess is that “round yon” means “around yonder…” but isn’t that an odd thing to put in a song? And it makes me think of a round, pregnant belly. (I’ll give this one a gracious pass, though, because I’m sure translating a song is all sorts of difficult.)

(ETA: I have more clarity on this thanks to a reader who says:
In “Silent Night” it is simply an issue of how we hear the separation of the phrases. It means that all is calm and bright around the virgin mother and her Child.

Makes so much more sense now. Thanks!)

7. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Soon the bells will start
And the thing that will make them ring, is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart

Huh? Where are these bells that will “start?” And if I sing a carol in my heart, they’ll ring? How is that different than “starting?” And why are we singing carols in our heart to make some bells ring? I’m so confused!

8. Frosty the Snowman

So, there’s obviously a lot of weirdness in this song. Why is there a magic hat that makes a snowman come alive? Should we be worried that the children are following him? Why will he be back again someday?

However, this stanza takes the cake:

He led them down the streets of town
Right to the traffic cop
And he only paused a moment when
He heard him holler stop

Am I hearing this right? Did Frosty the Snowman cross a street when the traffic cop told him to stop? Just…why???

9. Here Comes Santa Claus

Most Christmas songs can be neatly divided into Christian Christmas songs, about baby Jesus and Mary and Bethlehem, and secular Christmas songs, about Santa and Frosty and snow.

However, “Here Comes Santa Claus” weirdly mixes the two genres. So it has lines like

Santa Claus knows we’re all Gods children
That makes everything right

And

Peace on earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
So lets give thanks to the lord above
That Santa Claus comes tonight!

Maybe if you have Christian parents who also told you Santa was real, this makes sense to you. But as someone who was always told that Santa was just a story, this genre mixing seems very bizarre to me.

Honorable mention: “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Too much oddness to even unpack.

That is the end of my list. And listen. I can happily sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” while Christmas caroling, or feel warm Christmas fuzzies as “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” plays on the radio as I Christmas shop.

But let’s be real. When I think “Christmas music,” I don’t think of lovely songs I listen to over and over. I think of the bizarre lyrics that permeate the genre.

I’m not usually a Grinch when it comes to Christmas related things, but I guess in this one area I am, haha.

13 responses to “Blogmas 2018: Christmas Songs that Don’t Make Sense

  1. Hahaha! I loved the first two especially! Maybe, perhaps, because I also was confused, in my younger days, by the “summer straw, berries, and milk” line.

    There are a couple more problems in the first few lines of “We Three Kings”: there were probably more than three, and they weren’t kings!

    Oh, and they apparently didn’t follow yonder star to Jerusalem, because they were really happy to see it when they left Herod’s palace…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And it’s much, much worse if you use a grammar structure that literally no one uses in real life.

    “Hey Emily, where are you from?”

    “I from Oregon am.”

    Maybe Yoda from Star Wars knew they.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The only one I ever noticed was the really obvious Walking in a Winter Wonderland verse:

    In the meadow we can build a snowman
    Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
    He’ll say, Are you married?
    We’ll say, No man
    But you can do the job
    When you’re in town

    Hm.

    I never noticed that about Rudolph before!

    My best guess is that it’s always sung with the purpose of having fun and being happy, and as you’re singing it, the “poor Rudolph” bit stands out a little and you temper your voice. . . but straightaway there’s that buildup and yay! Back to happy again! All the reindeer love him! And now here comes the big ending, get ready to belt it out! It seems like the context you hear it in is always the opposite of reflective.

    You know how grammar sticklers insist on using “fewer” instead of “less” with count nouns – Amazing Grace says “we’ve no less days”, and now annoyingly I always hear “we’ve no fewer days” in my head. I hope I forget about that soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. At a church we visited last Sunday, the pastor told us the during the reign of King Henry VIII, he made it illegal for Catholic priests to preach, so the priests made up the 12 Days of Christmas to covertly teach some basic Christian and church principles. He said that the partridge is the only bird that will die fighting for its young. Two turtle doves – the Old and New Testaments. Three – the trinity. Four – the Gospels. Five – the Pentateuch. Six- can’t remember. 🙂 (Some seemed a little random and didn’t stick in my head.) I have no idea if it the story is true, and it only improved the song slightly for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In “Silent Night” it is simply an issue of how we hear the separation of the phrases. It means that all is calm and bright around the virgin mother and her Child.

    Like

  6. It’s laughing, i am.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There are some common elements of the Christmas story in songs that are not verified by Scripture. The Bible says nothing about the angels singing, although I suppose their message was as beautiful as if it had been sung. Also (according to Matthew 2), the wise men were not at the stable. They worshiped the “young child” in the “house.” When King Herod was trying to eliminate this Contender for the throne, he commanded that all children in Bethlehem under three years old be killed “according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.”

    However, I don’t think either of these misconceptions makes the wonder any less (or more) of the miraculous birth of our Savior and King. –LRM

    Like

  8. Interesting read! I think some of your grammer issues have to do with getting the rhythm and rhyme to come out right. It’s the same way in writing poetry, some things backwards are said to get the ending right. Also apostrophes or shortened words (like round) or alternate words (like less days) are used to use less (or more) syllables and keep it flowing. If you read or write poetry, you’ll see it a lot. Songs are basically poetry set to music.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”: is seriously in need of some speech commas and other punctuation: i.e. “Hark”, the Herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born king,” or Hark! The Herald angels sing: “Glory to new born king”. But I suppose that doesn’t help much when listening.

    A “herald” is traditionally a sort of messenger who proclaims things for a Lord or King, so I suppose a “herald angel” is a “messenger angel” or a “proclaiming angel” (which is a bit daft given the word “angel” is originally a word meaning “messenger”).

    🙂

    Like

  10. One song that you didn’t mention is “Do You Hear What I Hear”, which probably ranks as one of my least favorite Christmas songs. Tim Hawkins does a good job critiquing it in his own way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=ey_IL57a-b0

    😁

    Like

  11. This is unrelated to your post. But, I remember you mentioning this subject in some other post. I just wanted to share a bit of my perspective.

    There is no such thing as a perfect man, not for me, for you, nor for anybody.

    Men are a reflection of the women they attract. Some people say: “If you want to really get to know a man- consider the woman he is with.” But, this judgement can get you only so far. Men are simple. They just want to be respected. Really, any woman would do; so long as she respects him.

    More possibly: Men are a reflection of the women they are with.
    Here’s my metaphor:
    Men are soil and rain, while women are the plants they provide for.
    Soil and rain remain; men don’t change. However, similar to how different plants can have different affects on soil, women have an influence over men. Women have the power to change the reaction she gets from a man by changing herself.
    Men are happy with any plant- any plant will do, so long as they don’t house a plant that produces an acid that causes a toxic cyclic environment. Of course, a plant that is lively and vibrant and has many beautiful flowers is enticing, as all women want to be.

    With that said, Marriage is all about forgiveness.
    The best man we can find as a woman is one that will accept our forgiveness when we ask for it. Almost all decent men will accept forgiveness when it is asked for.
    Try not to over complicate attraction.
    It’s simple really: men want respect while women want love.
    You’ll be better fit with someone who is loving toward you than someone you find interesting because interests come and go like seasons. Leave interests for friends, because friends also come and go.
    When you meet a single man you respect, respect him, and he will love you. Finding a relationship is truly as simple as that.

    Focus on respect instead of interesting- and you might find yourself being loved by someone you like.

    Like

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