21 December 2010

A Christmas Carol

When I was growing up, learning English, it took me a while to understand who this Carol was, and why she was so Christmassy. Once I figured out that a carol was just another word for song, however (slightly disappointing, I must admit), it all made much more sense. What still doesn’t make sense, though, are the titles of the carols. Just look at the list below:

The Twelve Days of Christmas 
Which twelve days are we talking about? Even in Norway, where we do our best to stretch every holiday as long as we can, where many people take time off between Christmas and New Year, Christmas only lasts for a week. You can perhaps stretch it to eight or nine days, depending on whether you count the night before Christmas Eve (“Little Christmas Eve” as we like to call it) and the day after New Years (“Hangover”), but still… Twelve? I wish!

Ding Dong Merrily on High
Well, someone’s been on a high, alright…

Deck the Halls
I’m confused. While I realize the lyrics imply that the halls (which halls? All of them?) shall be covered with boughs of holly, the dictionary suggests many alternative meanings for this word. Such as

1. A platform extending horizontally from one side of a ship to the other.
a. A platform or surface likened to a ship's deck.
b. A roofless, floored structure, typically with a railing, that adjoins a house.
c. The roadway of a bridge or an elevated freeway.
a. A pack of playing cards.
b. A group of data processing cards.
4. A tape deck.
5. Slang A packet of narcotics.
tr.v. decked, deck·ing, decks
1. To furnish with or as if with a deck.
2. Slang To knock down: He decked his sparring partner.
(From The Free Dictionary by Farlex

How, then, can we be absolutely sure we're doing the right thing according to this carol. Are we supposed to build a roofless, floored structure of holly, or perhaps this is a proposal to get into drugs! I’m particularly fond of the implications of the last suggestion – let’s knock down the halls with holly! (though I imagine it might take some time…)

Silent Night
The “silent” night this title refers to is the one when Jesus was born. Now, I have only been present at one birth (my own), and thus I am no expert, but I believe it is common knowledge that giving birth is not a particularly silent affair. And Mary’s delivery took place millennia before epidural was an option, so I’m guessing the Holy Mother got to test her vocal chords that night. But “A Night Filled With the Agony Screams of a Virgin” probably wasn’t considered an appropriate title back in 1818 when this song was written…

O Tannenbaum
O Wunderbaum?
While this title actually makes perfectly sense in the original German, it always makes me giggle. Why? Well, simply because it reminds me an awful lot about the little air “fresheners” known as Little Tree, or Wunderbaum

White Christmas
You can dream all you want, Bing, but with the global climate change threat hanging over all of our heads, I don’t think it’s very likely the dream will come true. Well, except for here, in Norway, where it already is white, and it has been for a while. But even if the Christmas Present isn’t a prime example, many Christmasses Past (and many Future, I fear) were green, or grey, or brown or whatever variety your non-snowy Christmas will take.

Let It Snow
(see above)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
While this song technically ends well (they find a use for Rudolf, after all), I don’t like the fact that Rudolph’s red nose has to be a factor at all. After all, he probably only has a really bad sinus infection, and after having been on a 100-a-day Kleenex prescription for a few days I can assure you that’s no picnic. I wouldn’t want a song written about my red nose, so I’m guessing Rudolph isn’t to cheery either.  

Little Drummer Boy?

The Little Drummer Boy
I think it is good that someone else than the lead singer gets some attention, I really do. However, I have no idea what this has to do with Christmas.

The only one that really makes sense is the good, old “The Christmas Song”. No confusion there. It’s pretty straightforward, really – it’s Christmas, and this is the song that accompanies it. The Christmas Song. Even if the title makes sense, however, I question the lyrics. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” First of all – if you’re roasting something, you ought to make sure there isn’t so much a fire as embers. If you try to roast something while there is still a fire, it will only taste smoke. Secondly, I’ve always imagined that roasted chestnuts would taste amazing, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in my life as I was when I actually tried it. It tasted… Well, it tasted like they’d been roasted over an open fire (not embers). It was almost like eating charcoal (not that I’ve tried). I don’t recommend it. 

So there. If you thought Christmas was crazy, I have now presented the evidence. But no worries – it’s almost over, and it will be a whole year before we have to consider Christmas for “Topical Tuesday” again…


CA Heaven said...

Yes, Christmas is crazy. That's why January is such a great month, as far away from Christmas as possible >:)

Cold As Heaven

Golden Eagle said...

Christmas songs do get a little strange . . .

Hart Johnson said...

I fell off my chair when I read this: “A Night Filled With the Agony Screams of a Virgin”


Oh, Cruella, we've missed you. Very chuckle-worthy analysis...

Sue said...

Thankyou! Brilliant.

The do defy logic. I'd love to her your take on the upbeat cacophonous versions they play in shops presumably to encourage us to buy more 'stuff'. ugh.

MTeacress said...

What about the one they call Greensleeves? Is that why we wear green? ;) Have a Merry Christmas!

Danette said...

Very cute! There are tons of songs that I remember as a kid like that-- I grew up in church and we sang this song about "Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me all the Days of my Life". I could not figure out for the life of me who Shirley was and why in the world she would want to follow me-- and should I run?

Anuradha Shankar said...

wonderful take on carols! my son is learning them now, and he has a huge number of questions about them.. am sure he will love this!