The Pagan Origins of Popular Christmas Songs

 

Amidst all the debate over whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, or this or that song should or should not be played over the holiday season, or even over whether Christmas started as a pagan holiday, I thought it important to bring some historical perspective to the matter. You see, most people are actually woefully historically ignorant of some of the most pernicious of pagan customs that have not only found their way into modern culture, but were deliberately planted there. And so I have here marked out just some of the more blatant examples.

Last Christmas, by Wham. This song’s origins as an Aztec sacrificial lament are encoded right there in the chorus for all to hear. Of course, the setting is more modern (Aztecs not having access to modern drum sets, or Boy George for that matter), but the lyrics and the melody are lifted right from ancient writing found on numerous Aztec temples throughout Meso-America. The holiday of “Christmas” was simply swapped out from the more ancient Aztec term for Winter Solstice, which is primarily why the new version needed a 4/4 drum beat, instead of the older Aztec 17/7 beat, which was ideally suited for the rhythmic plunging of obsidian blades. Thus in its original, the chorus reads:

Last Solstice I cut out my cousin’s heart
But the very next day you accidentally dropped it into a pond
This year, to save me from an agonizing death from plague
I’ll give it to a more attentive priest

Of course this version would never sell, no matter how enthusiastic the drum section, but Boy George, having recently returned from a vacation in Mexico (where, according to rumors, he was secretly initiated into a surviving Aztec sect), and wanting to do all he could to encourage holiday suicides, reworked the lyrics into something more palatable. That the song continues to be played is both a testament to the poor taste of radio DJs, and a sign of the pernicious effects of a multi-culturalism that is no longer able to condemn human sacrifice. The song clearly has no place as a Christmas song and should be banned.

Rocking Around The Christmas Tree, by Dianne Addante – This arboreal circle-dancing song is certainly upbeat and fun today (if horribly overplayed), but its origins as a Germanic agrarian Vernal Equinox song are often forgotten. This song was originally sung by villagers as they danced in concentric circles around the biggest spruce tree they could find (substituting white pine in more isolated hamlets, and if they were really desperate they’d use a larch tree instead). The song was originally intended to summon the great gods of fertility to come and bless the planting of crops. The line about smooching under the mistletoe is surprisingly an untouched (save for translation) original line. Also notable is how the original Germanic rockabilly beat has been preserved (the Germans always have better drummers than the Aztecs). Here is how the original lyrics ran:

Dancing around the Vernal Tree
for the blessing of the crops,
A mistletoe hung where you can see
Every couple tries to stop

Dancing around the evergreen Tree
Let the fertile spirits spring
Later we’ll roast some hogs on spits
and we’ll do some massacring

You will get a drunken feeling
When you hear, voices singing
“Let’s be feasting; Deck the woods with boughs of holly”

Baby, It’s Cold Outside – by Frank Loesser – This song is surprisingly modern, but not quite as modern as you’d think. You see, the original on which this was based was more of a Halloween romantic duet sung by Alistair Crowley and HP Lovecraft about summoning monstrous shades to take over the world. Still pagan, but a more modern pagan. There are no surviving recordings of the authors singing their number, as any time it was played live, the recording studio would spontaneously combust, beginning with the drummer (modern drummers being rather inexpensive, it took a while for recording studios to clue into the problem). Fortunately for Loesser, he was well outside the blast radius of the final attempt to record the number, and so only caught the tune, the lyrics being muffled by the sounds of an extradimensional portal snapping shut after consuming yet another drummer. And more fortunately for all of us, the last copy of the original lyrics went along with that studio.

In conclusion, we should all have a merry and watchful Christmas, and not play any of these songs lest that portal reopen, letting loose hordes of angry Vikings, Aztecs, and drummers (this goes double for Little Drummer Boy).

There are 43 comments.

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  1. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Festivus music, right, Skip? (The tags would make Pseud proud!)

    • #1
    • December 24, 2018, at 12:11 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    I should note, all the drummer jokes are there in no small part to amuse @percival

    • #2
    • December 24, 2018, at 12:16 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  3. She Thatcher
    She

    Lord, @skipsul, this is really good. I hesitate to mention that you’ve missed one, though.

    All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth is a World War II era tone poem which the illuminati (small “i”) recognize is a precursor to the songs of the late 1960s containing coded messages that Paul McCartney is dead, and that his place has been taken, for the last seventy years, by a tone-deaf, Eastern European, transgender lookalike. How such presaging was even possible, given that it occurred when Paul was only about five years old, has never been uncovered, but when played backwards this song sounds like The Holly and the Ivy, (there’s a Pagan story there, too, which does not involve motorcycles) and the meaning is clear.

    I had a bunch more stuff, but it disappeared in that combustion event that you mentioned. Still, I’ll keep trying to reconstruct what I can, and I may comment later.

    Merry Christmas!  Glæd ġéohol! (Joyous Yule!)

    • #3
    • December 24, 2018, at 12:43 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  4. Percival Thatcher

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    I should note, all the drummer jokes are there in no small part to amuse @percival

    17/7 time? Awesome. Rock on with yo’ bad self, Huitzilihuitl.

    • #4
    • December 24, 2018, at 12:55 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  5. JosePluma Thatcher

    She (View Comment):
    illuminati (small “i”)

    I still spell it illuminatI.

    • #5
    • December 24, 2018, at 3:07 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    Oh, Skipsul!

    • #6
    • December 24, 2018, at 3:36 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Weeping Member

    SkipSul:

    Last Christmas, byWham. This song’s origins as an Aztec sacrificial lament are encoded right there in the chorus for all to hear. Of course the setting is more modern (Aztecs not having access to modern drum sets, or Boy George for that matter) ….

    <snip>

    Of course this version would never sell, no matter how enthusiastic the drum section, but Boy George, having recently returned from a vacation in Mexico (where, according to rumors, he was secretly initiated into a surviving Aztec sect), and wanting to do all he could to encourage holiday suicides, reworked the lyrics into something more palatable. ….

    George Michael was part of Wham!, not Boy George. He was part of Culture Club. Really Skipsul, if you can’t get that basic piece of information correct, how can we trust the rest of what you say? ;)

    • #7
    • December 24, 2018, at 4:00 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  8. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Weeping (View Comment):

    SkipSul:

    Last Christmas, byWham. This song’s origins as an Aztec sacrificial lament are encoded right there in the chorus for all to hear. Of course the setting is more modern (Aztecs not having access to modern drum sets, or Boy George for that matter) ….

    <snip>

    Of course this version would never sell, no matter how enthusiastic the drum section, but Boy George, having recently returned from a vacation in Mexico (where, according to rumors, he was secretly initiated into a surviving Aztec sect), and wanting to do all he could to encourage holiday suicides, reworked the lyrics into something more palatable. ….

    George Michael was part of Wham!, not Boy George. He was part of Culture Club. Really Skipsul, if you can’t get that basic piece of information correct, how can we trust the rest of what you say? ;)

    And, Skip, George Michael sang this; let’s see what you can do with it. :-)

    • #8
    • December 24, 2018, at 4:08 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Weeping (View Comment):

    SkipSul:

    Last Christmas, byWham. This song’s origins as an Aztec sacrificial lament are encoded right there in the chorus for all to hear. Of course the setting is more modern (Aztecs not having access to modern drum sets, or Boy George for that matter) ….

    <snip>

    Of course this version would never sell, no matter how enthusiastic the drum section, but Boy George, having recently returned from a vacation in Mexico (where, according to rumors, he was secretly initiated into a surviving Aztec sect), and wanting to do all he could to encourage holiday suicides, reworked the lyrics into something more palatable. ….

    George Michael was part of Wham!, not Boy George. He was part of Culture Club. Really Skipsul, if you can’t get that basic piece of information correct, how can we trust the rest of what you say? ;)

    But prior to skipsul writing this essay, few of us knew that Boy George was part of the Aztec Culture Club. So there’s that.

    • #9
    • December 24, 2018, at 4:51 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  10. Basil Fawlty Member

    SkipSul: This song was originally sung by villagers as they danced in concentric circles around the biggest spruce tree they could find (substituting white pine in more isolated hamlets, and if they were really desperate they’d use a larch tree instead)

    • #10
    • December 24, 2018, at 4:58 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Stina Member

    The joke —>

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    My head —>

    Merry Christmas, you merry men.

    • #11
    • December 24, 2018, at 5:37 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. JosePluma Thatcher

    Other little known music facts:

    Boy George Michael was actually one person.

    He played kazoo for Great White Shark, the short-lived supergroup that formed after Whiteshark and Great White broke up.

    • #12
    • December 24, 2018, at 5:53 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  13. Jimmy Carter Member

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    Other little known music facts:

    Boy George Michael was actually one person.

    He played kazoo for Great White Shark, the short-lived supergroup that formed after Whiteshark and Great White broke up.

    Shouldn’t that be “Great Whitesnake [?]” 

    • #13
    • December 24, 2018, at 6:01 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. JosePluma Thatcher

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    Other little known music facts:

    Boy George Michael was actually one person.

    He played kazoo for Great White Shark, the short-lived supergroup that formed after Whiteshark and Great White broke up.

    Shouldn’t that be “Great Whitesnake [?]”

    Probably.

    • #14
    • December 24, 2018, at 6:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    And, Skip, George Michael sang this; let’s see what you can do with it. :-)

    @nandapanjandrum Ah, yes, from Boy George Michael’s lesser known carpentry phase:

    Well, I guess it would be nice
    If I could shave your finial
    with curves less than lineal
    because your roof line doesn’t run quite true 

    Oh, but I gotta think twice
    Before I cut too much away
    And I don’t leave enough wood to stay
    And I have to use some glue

    Oh, but I need some turns off from that there spindle
    Got to shape them so they go with the door
    And if I carve them to match the lintel
    Well, it takes some patience baby
    Then I have to clean up the floor

    ‘Cause I gotta use my lathe
    I gotta run my lathe
    Because I got to spin the lathe, lathe, lathe
    I got to run the lathe, lathe, lathe

    • #15
    • December 24, 2018, at 7:52 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    And, Skip, George Michael sang this; let’s see what you can do with it. :-)

    @nandapanjandrum Ah, yes, from Boy George Michael’s lesser known carpentry phase:

    Well, I guess it would be nice
    If I could shave your finial
    with curves less than lineal
    because your roof line doesn’t run quite true

    Oh, but I gotta think twice
    Before I cut too much away
    And I don’t leave enough wood to stay
    And I have to use some glue

    Oh, but I need some turns off from that there spindle
    Got to shape them so they go with the door
    And if I carve them to match the lintel
    Well, it takes some patience baby
    Then I have to clean up the floor

    ‘Cause I gotta use my lathe
    I gotta run my lathe
    Because I got to spin the lathe, lathe, lathe
    I got to run the lathe, lathe, lathe

    Bravo to you, for finding that long-hidden manuscript, Skip! I love it!

    • #16
    • December 24, 2018, at 7:58 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    I should note, all the drummer jokes are there in no small part to amuse @percival

    Amuse with a ‘b’? 

    • #17
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:02 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  18. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    She (View Comment):

    Lord, @skipsul, this is really good. I hesitate to mention that you’ve missed one, though.

    All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth is a World War II era tone poem which the illuminati (small “i”) recognize is a precursor to the songs of the late 1960s containing coded messages that Paul McCartney is dead, and that his place has been taken, for the last seventy years, by a tone-deaf, Eastern European, transgender lookalike. How such presaging was even possible, given that it occurred when Paul was only about five years old, has never been uncovered, but when played backwards this song sounds like The Holly and the Ivy, (there’s a Pagan story there, too, which does not involve motorcycles) and the meaning is clear.

    I had a bunch more stuff, but it disappeared in that combustion event that you mentioned. Still, I’ll keep trying to reconstruct what I can, and I may comment later.

    Merry Christmas! Glæd ġéohol! (Joyous Yule!)

    And a Merry nagl fhtagn to you as well! 

    • #18
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:04 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Percival Thatcher

    TBA (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    I should note, all the drummer jokes are there in no small part to amuse @percival

    Amuse with a ‘b’?

    I’m not a drummer: I’m a musician.

    • #19
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:10 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  20. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Percival (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    I should note, all the drummer jokes are there in no small part to amuse @percival

    17/7 time? Awesome. Rock on with yo’ bad self, Huitzilihuitl.

    Rock out with your Quetzalcoatl out! 

    • #20
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:10 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  21. Arahant Member

    Percival (View Comment):
    I’m not a drummer: I’m a musician.

    Well…at least you’re not a drummer.

    • #21
    • December 24, 2018, at 8:30 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. Percival Thatcher

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    I’m not a drummer: I’m a musician.

    Well…at least you’re not a drummer.

    • #22
    • December 24, 2018, at 11:09 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    There’s a lot of good stuff written on Ricochet, but it’s not often that I am simultaneously laughing and applauding while reading a piece. That’s just beautiful, SkipSul. Great comments, too.

    • #23
    • December 25, 2018, at 7:59 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. Bishop Wash Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    I’m not a drummer: I’m a musician.

    Well…at least you’re not a drummer.

    Earlier this year, my five-year old started saying that she wants to be a drummer. I told my wife that if she stays that course, I want her to be a percussionist and not a drummer. A distinction I learned about during college hanging around the music majors. Fortunately, she’s lately been saying that she wants to play the clarinet like mom does. Mom and dad want her to play the french horn.

    • #24
    • December 26, 2018, at 11:55 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. Bishop Wash Member

    I learned about the Whamageddon game this year, not sure how long it’s been around. The goal is to not hear Wham’s Last Christmas between 1 and 24 December. Victory was mine this year.

    • #25
    • December 26, 2018, at 12:15 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I learned about the Whamageddon game this year, not sure how long it’s been around. The goal is to not hear Wham’s Last Christmas between 1 and 24 December. Victory was mine this year.

    Ah, but will you hear it before Epiphany? :-)

    • #26
    • December 26, 2018, at 1:04 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I learned about the Whamageddon game this year, not sure how long it’s been around. The goal is to not hear Wham’s Last Christmas between 1 and 24 December. Victory was mine this year.

    I won as well, but seeing my friends fall one by one inspired this entire post.

    • #27
    • December 26, 2018, at 1:11 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  28. Bishop Wash Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I learned about the Whamageddon game this year, not sure how long it’s been around. The goal is to not hear Wham’s Last Christmas between 1 and 24 December. Victory was mine this year.

    Ah, but will you hear it before Epiphany? :-)

    The inventors of the game must not observe Epiphany because the rules don’t worry about it. :)

    Also, covers are fine, one just can’t hear the original by Wham.

    • #28
    • December 26, 2018, at 1:19 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  29. Manny Member

    I avoided opening this post thinking it was serious, but it’s hilarious! Especially on “Last Christmas.” Good stuff Skip. :)

    • #29
    • December 26, 2018, at 2:43 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  30. Arahant Member

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    I’m not a drummer: I’m a musician.

    Well…at least you’re not a drummer.

    Earlier this year, my five-year old started saying that she wants to be a drummer. I told my wife that if she stays that course, I want her to be a percussionist and not a drummer. A distinction I learned about during college hanging around the music majors. Fortunately, she’s lately been saying that she wants to play the clarinet like mom does. Mom and dad want her to play the french horn.

    • #30
    • December 26, 2018, at 5:28 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
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