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I’ll admit it: I’m totally, hopelessly soft when it comes to Christmas. The trees, the lights, the otherwise indefensible notion that egg nog is something that should be consumed by humans rather than used to patch roofs — I go a little weak in the knees for all of it.
So it was that I found myself at home a few nights ago setting up the Christmas tree — a process that, in the Senik household, features an inadvisable mix of hard liquor and 10-foot ladders — with my iPod navigating an array of seasonal music. That’s when I noticed it: Peel away the cotton candy melodies and you will find, in the lyrics of many of our most beloved Christmas standards, a buffet of human dysfunction and malfeasance totally subversive of the ostensibly cheery holiday sentiment. As a public service (something the courts have been pretty insistent about where I’m concerned lately) I hereby provide you with a shorthand guide to some of the most troubling lyrical narratives of the Christmas season:
“Winter Wonderland” — Two miscreants perform a horrible Frankenstein experiment on a snowman, apparently for the purposes of committing ecclesiastical fraud. Despite a lack of relevant licensure, he begins performing wedding ceremonies.
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” — The jolly old man you’re leaving milk and cookies out for is running an intelligence sweep that makes the NSA look like pikers and is intent on meting out vigilante justice.
“O Tannenbaum” — Germans attempt to express guileless wonder. Despite their apparent earnestness, it is still creepy.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” — A mutant quadruped suffers bullying, which he eventually transcends by consolidating enough power to inspire sycophancy.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” — A couple finds themselves unable to express their love in any manner other than gifting each other domestic servants and the contents of an aviary.
“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” — An alcoholic senior citizen is brutally murdered by Father Christmas. Her family is indifferent.
“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” — A dysfunctional family’s Christmas list consists primarily of firearms, demon-possessed dolls, and the parents’ earnest wish that their kids would go the hell away.
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” — A small child musters no more than a shrug at the notion that his mother is conducting an affair with an aged drifter.
All in all, it makes for pretty harrowing listening. But let’s be honest — these are all still better choices than “Wonderful Christmastime”, the song that was apparently the back end of the deal Paul McCartney made with the devil in order to produce the Beatles catalog. As I write this, I’m hearing it for the second time today … and trying to figure out where I put that damn egg nog.