Music by VICE

Sorry Guys, We're About to Ruin Your Christmas

Did you know the songs of the festive season are really about being lonely, death and madness?

by Ryan Bassil, Emma Garland, and Lauren O'Neill
Dec 11 2017, 3:15pm

Home Alone movie poster

In all honesty, Christmas music is dark as hell. For a start, there are the retail workers who are unrelentingly subjected to these songs—their minds slowly eroded to the tune of “The Most Wonderful Time Of Year,” the rum-pump-a-pumping of “Stop The Cavalry” like daggers to the heart. It’s easy to imagine the experience being akin to getting stuck on the “It’s A Small World” ride at Disneyland for somewhere close to 500 hours, but in a mall somewhere. A shop-floor hell in a building atop a slab of wasteland concrete.

Also, on top of that, there’s also the content of the songs themselves, which on a few occasions has been anything but festive—a world where depressing narratives lay beneath the guise of festive cheer. So call us scrooges, call us what you will: here are the Christmas no-no’s that should be erased from the playlist or at the least reconsidered over some eggnog before being unleashed unto the masses, coating Yuletide with it’s true colours of dismal and blue depression. Happy holidays!!!

Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christmas Time”

There's a very distinct quality to the British that mostly involves saying something is fine when it's absolutely not. The most common example of this is everyday greeting, when the response to "how are you" is often "fine, thanks (and also I'm mentally expiring)". Another is the Paul McCartney song "Wonderful Christmas Time." On paper the song's lyrics read like an idealized version of the festive season. In reality however it can be the ironic backdrop to countless family arguments, looping on and on in the background as a strange form of torture—clenched smiles and barely-touching hugs rendered immortally in one demented piece of music. —Ryan Bassil

Frank Sinatra – “Winter Wonderland”

This is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most renowned and beloved songs in the Christmas canon. It has been covered no less than 72 times since Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith first wrote it in 1934, while the words “Winter Wonderland” have now become synonymous with ferris wheels, pop-up faux Bavarian taverns and dads falling over on ice. There’s something rather delirious about “Winter Wonderland”—those swaying strings and peppy little brass toots—which feels uplifting when Frank Sinatra is crooning it, but takes on a more mournful tone when you consider the fact that Smith penned the lyrics after seeing Honesdale Central Park covered in snow from the window of West Mountain Sanitarium where he was being treated for tuberculosis. With that knowledge, the whole song becomes one of sadness and longing. “Sleigh bells ring / Are you listening / In the lane / Snow is glistening / A beautiful sight / We're happy tonight / Walking in a winter wonderland,” he writes before dying of the illness a year later. “Gone away, is the blue bird / Here to stay, is the new bird / He sings a love song / As we go along / Walking in a winter wonderland.”

Still slaps though, doesn’t it. Who wants a mulled wine? —Emma Garland

Elvis Presley – “Lonely This Christmas”

This is your dad’s go to for Christmas Eve Karaoke down the Lion’s Head or the Nag’s Arse or whatever your dire hometown pub is called. It’s 10:36 PM on the 24th and Brian’s half cut wearing a Santa hat featuring flashing LEDs, but for a few glorious moments, when he takes up the mic and stands in front of that re-purposed portable telly, he is the King. He is Elvis. But he is also a dad.

Crooning “Lonely This Christmas” to an adoring (wankered) audience is probably the best part of your dad’s year, but has he thought about the fact that Elvis actually wrote this song to #raiseawareness about the fact that there are almost one million people in the UK who will spend this Christmas alone?? No. No he fucking hasn’t. It’s not all fun and games here, Brian. —Lauren O'neill

Dean Martin – “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!”

Make no mistake: this is one thousand percent a song about shagging. The theme of winter is merely incidental to the central plot which is basically your ex-bf trying to coax you out of all your social engagements in favour of staying in and getting piped. Nothing too dark that, I suppose, but certainly something to think about while your nan is eating mash and humming along to her fav. —Emma

“Jingle Bells”

Let's be honest, "Jingle Bells" is a song about drag racing and being pissed To quote a CBC headline from 2014, “started as a drinking song written by a 'jerk.'” One of the most popular events in mid-19th century Medford, Massachusetts, was a series of sleigh races wherein everyone would bomb it down one street for… fun, I guess? Anyway, a deadbeat called James Pierpoint took inspiration from these 1850s high speed drag races to write “Jingle Bells” in a pub. Apparently Pierpoint was a bit of a shit who kept leaving his wife with his father while he fucked off across the country chasing gold, abandoned their kids when she died and didn’t even bother to return for her funeral. —Emma

Björk – “Jólakötturinn (The Christmas Cat)”

To be fair, most people wouldn’t have any preconceived notions about this mad Christmas song outside of Iceland. And, with its medieval composition and bassline that sounds like it’s lifted from a soundtrack to a film about hacking, it doesn’t come off as much of a seasonal banger either. Still, if I told you that Bjork covered a popular Icelandic carol based on a popular legend about a massive cat that eats people who failed to receive new clothes before Christmas, you’d probably have further questions.

Although Jólakötturinn might sound like a savage beast with a real distaste for poorly dressed children, like an extremely hairy Anna Wintour, it is actually an enforcer of good behaviour. The logic goes that the threat of being fashion policed to death was used to incentivise farmers to finish sorting out all their autumn wool before Christmas. So it’s a lesson in work ethic, actually: those who work hard get to live, those who don’t will get done in. Philip Hammond is probably toiling in a lab somewhere right now trying to make this a reality so he can prove austerity is working.

Sidenote: the cat is owned by 13 children collectively known as the Yuletide Lads who, from the Door Sniffer who “has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods” to the Sausage Swiper (guess what he does), are essentially a super fucked up 7 Dwarves.

Well, Merry Christmas! —Emma

The Pogues & Kirsty McColl Fairytale Of New York – "Fairytale of New York"

This song is literally about an abusive relationship. —Lauren

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