The other day I was sweeping the floor and humming “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” to myself, as one does this time of year. And I realized that I have a lot of thoughts about this song. Not criticisms really, just thoughts.
Like first of all, I always imagine this song taking place down the street at my neighbor’s house. Especially when I come to the line,
A pair of hop-a-long boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben
Dolls that’ll talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen
Because as anyone who lives around here knows, Leroy and Anita’s two youngest sons are Barney and Ben. And they were always talked about like that too, as a pair. Barney and Ben. Never Ben and Barney, or Barney and Andrew, or Andrew and Ben, even though there was a third brother named Andrew. Always Barney and Ben.
Also, there was a sister in the family named Janna, which is similar to Janice. Maybe if Andrew had been a girl they’d have named him “Jen?”
Then I started thinking about the gifts that these children in the song wanted.
First, what the bunnyslipper are hop-a-long boots?
Jenny and Amy told me that they always imagined that hop-a-long boots were 7 league boots. Personally, I always imagined boots with thick heels embedded with a spring, like a pogo stick, so you could go bouncing along on the heels of your boots.
We called on Aunt Google.
Apparently in the ’40s and ’50s there were popular books and movies about a cowboy named “Hopalong Cassidy.” So these boys wanted cowboy boots like his. “Hopalong boots.”
Meanwhile, in the world of this song, Janice and Jen want “dolls that’ll talk and will go for a walk.”
This had me nostalgic for a moment. I remember, as a kid, dreaming about the idea of a walking doll. Or a talking doll. Oh my, how wonderful would that be! If only such a thing existed!
Similarly my mom, growing up in the ’60s, used to begin her Christmas list every year with
- Big doll
- Little doll
- Walking doll
- Talking doll
Like me, she never received a walking or talking doll…at least not as a child. But unlike me, it wasn’t something she dreamed up. She’d see advertisements in the Sears catalog for walking dolls and talking dolls.
Which makes me wonder. If walking dolls and talking dolls have been around so long, and if this is something that little girls dream of owning, why isn’t this a bigger thing? Why aren’t store shelves lined with walking, talking dolls? How come my friends never had them? How come I never saw them in movies, or read about them in books?
My personal theory is that while walking dolls and talking dolls may seem cool in theory to little girls, in reality they’re just creepy. Uncanny valley stuff. After all, remember how in 2015 Mattel was trying to be all hip with the times, and created a wifi-enabled Barbie doll with a Siri/Alexa-like voice system that could hear what you said and respond? I mean, it was a BIG DEAL. I read this fancy New York Times article about it.
It never caught on. It never became a thing. Its Amazon page now says it’s “discontinued from manufacturer,” and shows it rated 2 out of 5 stars.
It’s just so fascinating to me, that technology can only go so far before we’re all collectively like, “no, that’s creepy. I’m not buying that.”
Anyway, back to the song. So after Barney and Ben want a toy gun and some boots, and Janice and Jen want a walking, talking doll, we get to the line And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.
This line always sticks out to me, because I remember being a kid. I remember at the end of summer vacation, my mom saying, “I’m dreading school starting up again. I’ll miss my kids!” And that always made me feel so warm and loved. I’d overhear other parents, in Goodwill or wherever we used to go in those days, talking about how they couldn’t wait to send their kids back to school. What must that be like? To be a kid and know that your parents didn’t want you around?
I mean, I’ve never been a parent. Maybe it is so difficult that you secretly look forward to school starting again. But it’s always bothered me when this sentiment is thrown out casually, almost like a joke. Like, your kids are listening to you, and that’s a really mean thing to say.
Moving along to other parts of the song, I find that some of them are rather strange. I mentioned this in last year’s Christmas Songs that Don’t make Sense, but the oddest part of this song is the stanza:
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Soon the bells will start
And the thing that will make ’em ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart
That literally makes no sense. 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?
Also, I can’t figure out what “silver lanes” means in this first stanza.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go
Take a look at the five and ten, it’s glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes that glow
Unlike with the hop-a-long boots, Google was no help to me here. Some people thought “silver lanes that glow” meant icy streets, but how would there be icy streets in a five and ten store? Others thought it meant the aisles of the store, which makes more sense, but how are they silver and glowing? There wouldn’t be ice inside the store, would there?
Still, you have to admit that for all it’s oddities the song, and in particular its primary line, is super catchy. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. My sister Amy claims that it’s the most-used song in Instagram stories this time of year.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for Day 3 of Blogmas!